Posted in Faith, Family

Long. Slow. Deep.

Just breathe.
Long. Slow. Deep.

Words said to me over and over again with every single contraction I had as I labored with each of my four kids.

Just breathe.
Long. Slow. Deep.

Words I say to myself whenever my heart starts to race, my palms get sweaty and my brain is off to the races, filled with anxiety and dread.

Just breathe.
Long. Slow. Deep.

Words the Tender Lover of my soul speaks to me when the heartache both within and around me feels unbearable.

Just breathe.
Long. Slow. Deep.

Words that I imagine were spoken to Mary by the women in her caravan coaxing her through the laboring pushes and birth of Jesus and the comfort and joy that prevailed in the afterbirth.


It’s now past midnight.

Someone I love is in much pain.

Most days, I would push it aside and go to sleep.

Not tonight.

I’m sitting at my table just breathing.
In and out.

Breathing in her pain. Long. Slow. Deep.

Holding my breath for just a few seconds as I hold her before the God who is with her in the middle of her pain, her heartache.

Breathing out the love of God to her. Long. Slow. Deep.

I’m not in the physical room with this one I love.
I can’t be right now.

I can’t take away her pain.
I can’t make it magically all better.
But I can breathe for her.
I can breathe with her.

Long. Slow. Deep.

In the story of creation, God took the dust, the dirt, the ground and breathed life into it. His powerful, beautiful, love-filled life.

What sprang forth in all its beauty was us. You and me.

We were glorious.
We were sacred.
But we were also fragile.

But God didn’t and doesn’t stop there.
He didn’t and doesn’t create us and then leave us alone.

We are still glorious.
We are still sacred.
And we are still fragile.

We need Him, His breath of life, every single day.

In our pain.
In our fear.
In our sadness.
Even in our joy.

We need His powerful, beautiful, love-filled life.

That’s why I breathe.
Long. Slow. Deep.

For those I love.

For myself.

Often for those I don’t even really know, but can love because they are glorious, sacred and fragile just like me.


Each of us takes about 20,000 breaths per day.

20,000 chances to inhale our individual and collective suffering.

20,000 chances to hold each other and bring each other to the One who holds us in the palm of His hand and in the recesses of His heart.

20,000 chances to exhale His unending and unfailing love to one another.

But most of our breaths are rushed, fast, and shallow.

We move at a pace that requires this.
Rushed. Fast. Shallow.

It’s no wonder we miss out on the powerful, beautiful, love-filled life that God has to offer us and we have to offer each other.

So tonight, at this dark and quiet hour, I don’t want to miss out.
I want to be present. I want to soak in the power, the beauty and the love that is ready at the waiting.

I do nothing else but breathe.

Long. Slow. Deep.

For the one I love.
For me.
And for you.

(I lit my fourth Advent candle this morning…the one the speaks to LOVE.)
Posted in Celebration, Grief

Kitchens and the Howl of the Not Yet

The past several months have been marked by much suffering.

The pain can be overwhelming.

Substance abuse by those we love.

Every kind of loss imaginable from the dang virus.
A very scary diagnosis.
A debilitating disease that prevents normal life-function.
Mental illness that doctors are having trouble treating.

The excruciating long and threatening unknown.

We find ourselves overwhelmed in the most ordinary of places.

For me, it’s often the kitchen (even when I’m not cutting onions).

We cry…

How long?
How much?
Why right now?”

I love the holiday season.

It’s FULL (even during this very out-of-whack new normal).

My tree is FULL of ornaments.
My tummy is FULL of food (way too much of it, as my current waistline is showing).
My neighborhood is FULL of lights (my favorite).
My garage is FULL of empty Amazon boxes, gifts waiting to be wrapped and opened on Christmas morning in the family room.

And especially this year…

My heart is FULL of


I’m desperate for them. I’m holding onto them with all my might.

I like living in the FULL of good things part, the JOY part, not the CRYING part, the SAD part.

The period leading up to Christmas morning is commonly known as Advent. It’s Advent right now.

Advent speaks to the “howl of the not-yet,” the pleading, the waiting, the yearning, the “crying in the kitchen” part.

Advent is NOT Christmas morning.

Advent speaks about and grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today, and yearning that is unfulfilled.

Advent gives a glimpse of fruition at the end of a long season of waiting.

Advent says there is suffering and it is real, palpable.
But it also says there is hope, just as real and palpable.

Advent says “don’t skip over the suffering. Don’t minimize the heartache. Sit in it, acknowledge it, and feel it.”

This is not an easy place.

I struggle with Advent.
I do not sit with the grief, acknowledge and feel it.

I skip right to Christmas morning, the happy place, where the answer is here and salvation has come, the “FULL of JOY in the family room” part.

Skipping right to Christmas doesn’t work.

It doesn’t take away the pain.
It doesn’t make bad things not happen.
It doesn’t bring true healing.

Advent is what brings healing.

It’s the place of truth that speaks to both heartache AND hope.

It’s the place of grace that speaks to both suffering AND a Savior.

It’s the place of life that speaks to both waiting AND receiving.

Right now, there is more than a week until Christmas morning.

I think I have some more “crying in the kitchen” work to do.


The Not-Yet.

Christmas morning will come soon enough.

A baby will be here.
A Savior will come.
What is empty will be filled.
Heartache will be healed.
Yearning will be fulfilled.
What is broken will be repaired.
What we’ve lost will be found.

It will be time for the “FULL of JOY in the family room.”

But right now, I’m headed to make breakfast.

(P.S. I lit my third candle this morning – this time the pink one – the one for JOY – we wait together)

Posted in Celebration

All we are saying is….

The mantra sung and chanted and begged for in 1969.
War rages and protests break out all over.
Charles Manson cult members murder 5 people.
Hurricane kills 248 people.
Chappaquiddick (look it up).
Police raid a gay club in New York City. The Stonewall Riot ensues.
What the messenger asked of a young, brown-skinned, oppressed, poor girl named Mary.
4 BCish.
Herod the Great kills his own family to hold onto his reign of brutality.
Taxation of the poor is almost 50-60%.
Women are viewed as property, to be used and discarded on a whim.
Revolts and uprisings are commonplace.
Politics and religion intertwine and hatred for the “other” rules.
4 BCish.
What our collective, modern-day hearts continue to yearn and plead for.
COVID continues to threaten our way of life. Will it ever be over?
Politics and religion intertwine and hatred for the “other” destroys communities, families, and even our hope.
Sex-trafficking is at an all-time high. 40,300,000 current victims.
Another school shooting. #excruciatinglyawful
Continuing racial tension that seems insurmountable.
The idea that ALL IS WELL.
inside and outside
individually and collectively
mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally
Not just for some.
Not just for the rich.
Not just for the healthy.
Not just for the insiders.
Not just for the free.
BUT for everyone.
The rich and the poor.
The healthy and the sick.
The loved and the lonely.
The insiders and the marginalized.
The free and the prisoner.
Begged for in 1969.
Asked for in 4 BC (ish).
Yearned for STILL in 2021.
Something so elusive. So difficult. So needed.
[not how do we KEEP peace]
4 BCish.
We MAKE PEACE by embracing that “ALL are created equal.” ALL.
Not just the ones who look, believe and act like us.
We MAKE PEACE by being willing to resolve turmoil.
Both what rages on the outside and on the inside of us.
We MAKE PEACE by standing up for it. Saying “NO MORE!”
Both for others and ourselves.
We MAKE PEACE by fighting for it.
In our own hearts and homes first, but NOT stopping there.
We MAKE PEACE by making room (just like Mary in 4 BCish) for the Prince of Peace.
The One who embraces that ALL are created equal.
The One who resolves the turmoil that rages inside and out.
The One who stands up and says “NO MORE!”
The One who fights for our hearts and our homes, but does not stop there!
The One who shows up every moment of every day of every single year (even this one)…and tenderly says…
P.S. I lit the peace candle this morning.
Posted in Childhood, motherhood

Parenthood (The Constant Return to Advent)

“Advent is for the ones who know longing.”
“Tis the Season.”
(Mom utters with eyes rolling while corralling child hyped up on the latest candy cane-induced sugar high)

“Tis the Season.”
(Dad pronounces with pride brimming watching high schooler dance in holiday pageant)

“Tis the Season.”
(Parents cry waiting for any hopeful news of their adult child living on the streets with addiction)

“Tis the Season” is right!

A season filled with wonder, joy, hope and generosity.

A season also filled with waiting, anticipating, yearning, the pleading question “is it all going to be okay?”

This is the howl of Advent.
Christmas Morning is the answer to that question.

The entire journey of parenting feels a lot like Advent.

In fact, it starts with the womb, nine months of waiting, anticipating, yearning, the Question, “WILL THEY BE OKAY?”

Our precious baby is born and for a moment when the doctor says, “All is well,” we burst with joy and wonder, waves of relief flooding our hearts as the question is answered.

“Yes, they are going to be okay.”

Advent quiets. Christmas Morning arrives.


We arrive home, alone with this human we are responsible to feed and care for, keep alive and healthy. We wake in the dark, tiptoe over to the bassinet and put our hands on their backs or our fingers under their teeny noses to see if they are breathing.

The Question arises again, “are they going to be okay?”
Advent returns.

This constant returning to Advent, to the Question, permeates parenthood.


Will they choke on that bagel?
Will they make friends in their class?
Will they learn to read?
Will they score a goal?
Will they have a seat in the lunchroom?
Will they tell us the truth about that party?
Will they drink and drive?
Will they get into a good college?
Will they struggle with loneliness?
Will they meet someone who loves them?
Will they make enough money?
Will they be a good mom or dad?
Will they have a happy marriage?


Advent grieves broken places that are yet to be healed, questions that have no answer today and yearning that is unfulfilled.

BUT (and it’s a big BUT), Advent also speaks the hope of an answer at the end of a long season of waiting, a Christmas Morning to come.

But as parents (whether our child is 2, 22 or 42), we wait, always returning to the Question. Wondering if there is an answer to the burning doubt inside.


Is there a Christmas Morning for us, for our children who we love so tenderly and so dearly?

Not too long ago, I was in the middle of a long period of Advent with one of my kids, asking and asking the Question. It was nearly impossible to see any glimmer of hope on the horizon, near or distant.

The waiting was long. I fell into a bleak and dreary place.

The Question engulfed me until I asked an ever scarier one:


Just when I needed it (or more likely, when I was able to hear it), a gentle Voice spoke into my heart, clear as the air on a crisp Spring day.

“Even if the unspeakable happens, even if their treasured life comes to an end, they will be with Me, enveloped in My unfathomable love. They will be perfectly safe.”

Further words came after that I had so longed for:


And then, when I thought it was over, the same kind Voice gave the answer to an even deeper question I had not even asked:


The sigh of my soul was almost audible, as I collapsed into the knowing place that no matter what, even if all questions are answered with a NO, the Question is answered always with a YES.

Advent always ends with Christmas Morning.

Posted in Uncategorized

I lit a candle this morning

I lit a candle this morning.
For the first time.
Not just any candle.
The candle of Hope on this first day, this first Sunday of Advent.
A simple word. But also not a simple word.
A complex and intricate word. A pregnant word.
Yes, pregnant. Not the “have a baby in my belly” kind of pregnant. But the “full of meaning” kind of pregnant.
I’ve been pregnant six times with actual babies. Two ended way too soon, loss and grief and confusion permeating my heart. Four ended at just the right time, joy and life and expectation bursting onto the scene.
This word. Hope. What I felt every single time those two lines appeared in that small oval on my bathroom counter.
This word. Hope.
Two times, it ended in a bloody mess. A bloody mess that brought the end of possibility, the death of the little life that had stopped growing, and abject heartbreak.
In this particular season of Advent, with all the death and heartache that surrounds us, it sure feels like I’m sitting in the middle of a bloody mess on my bathroom floor crying.
All I did was open my newspaper this morning.
[More lockdowns coming world-wide. Covid numbers rise again.]
[Death toll is now 10 after rampage at chaotic outdoor concert.]
[Largest inflation surge in more than 30 years.]
That was just the front page.
In this particular season of Advent, it’s very much okay to be sitting in the middle of a bloody mess on my bathroom floor crying.
It’s why I lit a candle this morning.
NOT because there is nothing to grieve.
NOT because everything is as it should be.
BUT exactly because there is lots to grieve.
BUT exactly because everything is NOT as it should be.
This word. Hope. What I felt every single time those two lines appeared in that small oval on my bathroom counter.
BUT this word. Hope.
Four times, it also ended in a bloody mess. But those times, the bloody mess brought the beginning of possibility, the birth of the little life that had grown just enough, and undeniable joy.
In this particular season of Advent, it feels unsure whether our bloody mess will end with grief or joy. Death or life. Heartbreak or hope.
It’s probably why we often find ourselves on the bathroom floor crying. Praying under our covers. Lighting simple candles on our kitchen tables.
It’s why I lit one this morning.
Mary. My favorite pregnant woman.
Young, poor, single. A nobody.
In a world where her headlines read just like mine.
[Unbridled sickness.]
[Unnecessary death.]
[Abject poverty.]
In a world where there was a lot to grieve.
In a world where everything was NOT as it should be.
BUT in her womb, a baby grew.
Just enough.
AND yes, her pregnancy ended in a bloody mess.
But hope tells me what her Baby tells me as He bursts on the scene at just the right time.
[I’m right here with you in the middle of your grief.]
[I will put things right and things will be as they should.]
[Take courage, my child. Prepare your heart for Me.]
It’s why I lit a candle this morning.


**If you want the whole devotional (and the next three Advent Sundays) including spiritual exercises and reflection questions, sign up BY CLICKING HERE**

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, motherhood

Relax, Mom! (how the heck can I?)

“Relax, Mom.”

My LEAST favorite phrase that graces the mouths of my kids.

It usually comes when I am in a tizzy, overcome with fear about something that’s out of my control.

“Mom, can I go to this party (far away with people you don’t know)?”
“Mom, I just rear-ended someone.”
“Mom, I have this weird rash.”

“Relax, Mom.”

In the middle of all the fret and freak out, it’s the last thing I want to hear.

Instead, I totally want to hang on to my anxiety and use it to gain control over whatever is in front of me.

[Secret reveal: it doesn’t work. The more control I try to take, the greater my fear and panic. I can’t just “relax.”]

I’m not a big “throw a Bible verse out there and hope it sticks somewhere somehow.”

But there’s this one that turned this whole “relax” nonsense on its lovely head.

It’s simple and not simple at the same time.

“Cast all your anxieties on Him…”

[I looked it up, being the nerd I am.]

“Cast” means to “fling something with great force” and it indicates “onto the back of some beast of burden.”

My precious body is not designed to carry the weight of fret and freak out.
My aching back and my clenched jaw are proof.

BUT my days are still filled with hard stuff that is just too much for me (and my fragile central nervous system).

What am I, the fret-and-freak-out mom, to do?

I’m not good with “relax,” but I am really good with “fling” whatever whenever onto God’s “shoulders.”

Sounds perfect to me. Good riddance.

But why should I, the fret-and-freak-out mom, do this?

Plain and simple answer. One I can get on board with.

…BECAUSE He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

[I looked this up too.]

This word “care” implies “deep affection” and “meticulous attention.”
God’s not only highly aware and taking notice, but has utter tenderness for me and the heavy loads I am carrying.

It’s a good thing God doesn’t say “relax” to me like my kids do.

That would probably just amp me up even more.

Instead, He’s so gently reminds me,

“Take whatever load you’ve got on your back and fling it with all your might onto mine. I will carry it for you. You know why? Because I care deeply for you.”


Maybe I can “relax” a little bit after all.

Posted in Faith, Grief

Death (my fear of it…and some hope)

Halloween is strange.

Skeletons decorate lawns.
Fear is prime real estate in the “fun to do.”
The “shadows” come out to play.
Death is paraded for the world to embrace.

I do not like thinking about death. Even on Halloween.

I like cute pumpkins.
Funny costumes.

Guilt-free Kitkat bars.


Perhaps this is why.

I am often held captive by my fear of death.
It’s where my anxiety heads on any given day.

At times, I am able to “keep it in its rightful place,” and move along.

[Get my work done.]
[Enjoy the beauty of life.]
[Have lots of hope.]

But at others, I feel fragile, afraid, and my heart is off to the races

[Text my family to see if they are okay.]
[Look on the internet for answers to my latest ailment.]
[Hunker down to protect myself.]

I would love to get to a place where I don’t fear death at all.
I’m not sure if that’s even possible.

But I’m pretty sure I don’t have to be a slave to this excruciating fear, wear it as a weighty chain around my neck, and allow it to lead me down the “not living anyway” path.

As of late, I have felt a few links come off and I wonder if this might be (at least some of) the reason:

I am leaning into it, instead of avoiding it.

Spending time and energy with those who are grieving and not trying to fix their pain (and thus, my own).

Asking questions about walking through it with a fiercely-loved one and being reminded again how God shows up in the middle of it all, and it’s one of those “thin places” where heaven touches earth, awful and beautiful, but mostly exquisitely sacred.

It all seems to reveal, like nothing else can, that “LOVE is stronger than death.”

In fact (as my hubby often reminds me)…

I was born in LOVE. I’ve come from it.

I am currently held in LOVE. I’m safe.

And eventually, I will return to LOVE. Sigh.

Death (as scary as it is) cannot destroy the REAL ME. I will live forever, doused in and surrounded by LOVE.

It is much stronger (HE is much stronger) than Death.

I’ll still have my moments and days and seasons of slavery to fear.
Of taking chain links on and off.

I’m still in a “continuing to heal” place in this area.

Maybe we all are.

Posted in Family, Grief, motherhood

For the Mom Whose Kid is Hurting

The back door opens. It’s late.

I’m awake because that’s just how it is as a mom. No sleep until every child of mine is home safe.

My recent college grad walks into the family room where I lay on the couch, eyes heavy.

“We broke up, Mom.”

I bolt upright, dumbfounded. I can’t compute the words I hear.

This boy of mine and his girlfriend have been together since they were kids.

Seven years.

Tears form in his green eyes.

I don’t know what to do. I haven’t seen him cry since he was little.

This is a girl he was going to propose to.
This is a girl I love. Her picture hangs on our family photo wall.

I want to fix it, make him okay.

I am sad. I am angry.

I want to send her a “please love my boy again” text.
I want to buy him a plane ticket to visit his sister.

My own eyes well up and I offer him the only thing I can: my presence.

This is how it is now. The older my kids get, what they need comforting for or help with are not things I can do much about,

I can’t make people like them.

I can’t (and shouldn’t) fight on their behalf for a grade or a promotion at work.
I can’t force someone to want to spend the rest of their lives with them.
I can’t stop the world from hurting them.

What am I to do?

Offer my presence.

In simple ways.

Answer their text with a simple “I love you.”
Listen when and if they want to talk.

Take them to a movie, complete with popcorn and candy.
Write a “you’ve got this” note.
Make their favorite cookies.

Remind them I am praying for them.

Offer my presence,

Their lives are going to be filled with problems I can’t solve and pain I can’t take away.

This might be the most difficult part of being a mom. But perhaps it’s also the most beautiful.

By offering my presence, I’m being God (with skin on) to them.

I’m not doing the work that’s theirs alone.

I’m not fixing the dilemmas they find themselves in.
I’m not concocting ways to ensure they are not in pain (try as I might).

I am being with them in the middle of the quagmire.
I am reminding them they are not left on their own.
I am here for them, worrying, trusting, cheering, praying and hoping.

There’s no place I’d rather be.

Posted in Faith

Waiting on the Porch with Strangers

I picked up some barbecue from a local restaurant this past week.

It’s a hole-in-the-wall that opens at 11 am and usually sells out by 2 pm. They make no bones about how they will close as soon as the meat is gone.

When I arrived at 10:50 am, there was already a short line. They are THAT GOOD!

At 10:59 am, they opened their doors. There were now several people behind me waiting for their goodies.

Because of this not-so-lovely continuing plague, each person entered one at a time, some with masks and others without.

That left most of us waiting outside, just fine as it was a gorgeous fall day, filled with sunny skies and warm temperatures.

One woman fidgeted. She seemed overly nervous. She asked me how long I thought this would take as she had left someone waiting in the car.

A man complained that the website had not updated and they “better have brisket” today.

Three mid-twenties “guys,” looking like they just rolled out of bed, chatted about how much they loved working from home.

I was in a good mood and thrilled not to have to be cooking for the company we had invited over for dinner. My face was filled with smiles as I waited to order.

But my mind was churning.

What made this woman so nervous? Was the person in the car a child? A demanding, abusive spouse? Why was she in such a hurry? I felt sad for her.

What was the deal with the “Negative Ned” (the name I made up for him)? Why was he being such a jerk? This is a small business in a local town and he just “had to say something?” I felt pretty angry about him.

Where did these young fellas work, the ones in their sweats with bedhead? Did their bosses know that they were out-and-about? How fun for them to be getting lunch with their friends and working from home! Are they getting paid for this? I felt pretty confused about them.

As I drove away, the smell of pulled pork and brisket wafting through my car, I couldn’t stop thinking about this group of humans lined up outside on a small porch at 11 am, all waiting for the SAME thing.

Yet, we were all so DIFFERENT.

Coming from different places.

Feeling different things.

In different spaces.

Inside and out.

And it struck me.

No matter where we go or who we are with or what we are doing, we bring ourselves.

What’s going on in our life.

What’s happening inside our hearts.

Good or bad, happy or sad, annoyed or kind, fearful or at peace (yada yada yada).

Other people, even strangers standing in line and small business owners trying to serve up some finger-licking-good eats, reap the “rewards.”


I just happened to have had a good night of sleep, a full belly from my smoothie and an evening ahead with friends to look forward to.

I was rested, fed and loved.

Maybe that’s why I was all smiles and “in a good mood,” something the porch-waiters and shopkeepers benefitted from.

But the others?

I’m not sure.

Where were they coming from?

Were they rested, fed and loved?

I emptied my wares into the fridge, my husband helping me. I chatted away about the people in line.

He reminded me of a quote by Richard Rohr, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

Yes to that. YES. YES. YES.

That has happened both FROM me and TO me.

A few minutes later, I hunkered down in my office, thoughts continuing to swirl.

This time, something Jesus said came to me. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Yes to that.  YES. YES. YES.

What happens on the outside comes from the inside. Always.


I said a quick prayer on my futon, knowing I could have been any of those folks on any given day.

“God, grant me the goodness that I need on the inside. Help me to fight for it. Help me to receive it. Help me to give it to others on the outside.”

Even when standing on porches in small towns waiting with strangers.

Posted in Faith

On change and letting go…

The afternoon sun glistens through the trees.
The leaves are just beginning to be marked by yellows and oranges.
I steal a quiet moment to soak it all in.

Change and letting go beat their steady drums right in front of me.
They mirror what’s happening in my own life, my own heart.

So much change.

Much of it visible to the outside world.

My kids growing and flying.
My move to the woods (#acorns) and very-far-away grocery stores.
My new and strange love of flower gardening.
My public writing.
My decision to take a sabbatical from church and ministry.
My now simple and unhurried life.

So much change.

Especially in the hidden places of my heart.

My growing ability to hold space for grief and joy at the exact same time, not trying to diminish one for the other.

My okayness with not having everything right this minute at my beck-and-call.  #thisishardforme

My settledness of soul when I’m digging in the dirt and hashing things out with my Creator.

My surprising bravery sharing my not-so-pretty parts with the world and being somewhat fine no matter what others might think.

My emerging desire to lean into questions instead of being certain of answers. 

My permission to explore long-held beliefs, systems, and what drives me to cling to them.

My switch from frantic to slow, elaborate to simple, piety to peace.

So much letting go.

Of children.
Of homes.
Of manicured lawns.
Of privacy.
Of a sense of belonging.
Of life as I know it.

So much letting go.

Of people-pleasing.
Of perfectionism.
Of patterns.
Of platitudes.
Of praise-seeking.
Of performance.

An acorn falls with a large thump.
A brown leaf floats and lands to my right.

Many already scatter my driveway.

The trees are changing right before my eyes.
It’s beautifully sacred to see.

The trees will soon let go of all their leaves.
It’s the exact right thing for them to do.

The trees need rest.

From providing.
From producing.
From blooming.

The trees are not afraid of change or letting go.
They are not afraid of rest.

They tell me I don’t have to be either.