Joy vignettes

She is Esther, the beautiful brave. She walks humbly, asks her brother, playing King, to raise His scepter. I smile. The stories are seeping in.
The day is gray and bitter cold, and we pack swimsuits steaming and shorts and tennies and head to the Y. They master the climbing wall, perfect their Tarzan yells on the zip line, swim until they are too heavy to float any longer. I smile. I've done a good thing. They've been happy for hours.

It's past bedtime. It's like herding cats. Suddenly they all re-appear after a long silence in their bedroom. Apparently they weren't sleeping, they were staging a Weird Pajama Contest. Rosy wins. They trundle off to bed, and their laughter trickles down the stairs and fills the space between you and I with warmth instead of emptiness. It's been a good day. What else can you say when most days don't end this way? 

Joy comes in spurts and fleeting moments. I turn my mind into sticky tape and cling to that joy. Let the tears wash down the slippery side. 

Here's to the moments that make up "good days".

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Pr. 17:22)

Wanted {reprise}

Dancing with abandon
Every daughter of Eve falls down.
Heaven echoes with the sound
of our crumbling to dust.
Her dancing legs grow still
though she thrashes with her will,
Meted consequence for lust.

But something's bouncing round her soul
a whisper that she could be whole,
Courage builds as the drumbeat thrills.
Will you join her dancing through the crowd
No losing footing in the furrows fear plowed
This is the moment she's been waiting 'til...

She's been waiting for love scandalous
Love that swallows fists
Here He is, Lover of her soul
Unconquerable, inseparable, 
unwavering, unconditional,
She falls into the wisp
of faith that falters but holds true
No matter how wavering, it's falling into You.


You know I'd fall apart without you
Do you know how many times God says, "I need you" in the Scriptures?
I don't know how you do what you do
I respect your strength, your composure
'Cause everything that don't make sense about me
Makes sense when I'm with you
Like everything that's green, girl, I need you
Put aside the math and the logic of it
You gotta know you're wanted too

'Cause I wanna wrap you up
I wanna make you feel wanted
And I wanna call you mine
Wanna hold your hand forever
And never let you forget it

Anyone can tell you you're pretty, yeah
And you get that all the time, I know you do
But your beauty's deeper than the make-up

As good as you make me feel
Better than your best dreams
You're more than everything I need
You're all I ever wanted
All I ever wanted
~Wanted, Hunter Hayes~

The next stage, like it or not

My youngest turned 5 the other day. I still think of him as my baby, and I might always. After all, he is my baby, the youngest of my brood.
It's easier in many ways, this stage of our family. It's easier to find a sitter without a baby in the house, there's no one peeing on the floor, I don't have to arrange my life around breastfeeding breaks. Yet my arms ache. There is a sense of completeness missing when I look at our family. I wonder how much of it is the one baby, the one who would be my youngest, the one I never got to hold. Am I missing him when I see our family? Do other women who've miscarried feel this way?
I talk to Aaron about it, and he isn't with me in the missing. He is happy to be "done" with toddlers. I wonder how that impacts our dreams of adoption? I still stop by Reece's Rainbow often, looking at the photos, dreaming of bringing one of them home. Sadness strikes - dozens of countries won't allow us to adopt because of my history of depression. Anger creeps in - do they really think those babies are better lying in cribs, malnourished, unheld, eventually to "age out" of the orphanage and die in a mental institution just because they are physically or mentally disabled? Would I be that horrible of a mother to those children?
I try to make peace with my youngest being 5. I hold him, and he stretches well over half my body length. He is getting so big, and so not a baby any longer.
I pray for peace, too. All those orphans have a father - the Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). Try to turn the lament to praise for what God has given, however incomplete it feels.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:18-20)

My lonely heart is made for two
It beats too slowly without you

Tonight the sky is burning blue
Horizon cuts right into you
You'll be the moon I'll be the sea
And you can shine your light on me

I'm calling your name
But you won't listen
Tonight was made for two
But there's one heart missing
One heart missing

~One Heart Missing, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals~

How about you? Do you struggle to feel your family is complete? Do you long for another baby? Does your husband feel the same, or is he relieved to be progressing to "the next stage" of parenthood?

Rising to the occasion

One last thought, as a parent and as a human being; opportunities to love surround us. When we take those opportunities time seems to stop, and in that timelessness is where memories are made and beauty is beheld.  We will never regret rising to the occasion.  I believe it has something to do with the fact that God is love and we are made in His image. Suffering isn’t what we are made for, but it can be fruitful in ways we could never imagine. We love because He first loved us. (Daisy's mom writes as her 8 year old daughter lies dying at
Rising to the occasion. No matter how gray the day. No matter how heavy the burden. We are called to love, and yes, those opportunities surround. How can I be the love of Jesus to those around me today? My mother, just returning from surgery to repair her shoulder, needs my care today (prayers for her healing please?). My children - it is Caleb's 5th birthday today - how can I make it memorable, how can I get time to freeze in that shared space of joy, with depression riding heavy?

Make me a vessel today, Lord. If Daisy's mother can be wise in the midst of her situation, I can be wise and kind in mine. Help me, Father.

Soul notes

Behold, I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of peace. (II Timothy 1:7)

When I am an old woman
and you come
my skin will be as wrinkled as cottonwood bark
each groove a story, a scar
battlewounds of the war
and you will see my pain
like a roadmap across my body
and you and I will both wonder
how one could walk 
through fire
and only get this burned


When I am an old woman
and you come
my eyes will be transparent
windows to the soul
and in the brown will be peace
forgiveness love
each wrinkle written on my skin
transmuted into blessing
and you and I will both wonder
how one could walk
through fire
and never lose hope

Back in time

Is it possible to be injected with poison so deep that it takes over 20 years to discover the infected tissue? I'm watching Disney movies with my daughters on a Friday night, alone in the house with the kids. Aaron's on call. A scene comes up that I remember clearly, and suddenly I am 11 and seeing it for the first time.
Most of you know the story: the princess gives away the one thing the prince loved - her voice - in exchange for her rebellious dream. When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child... (I Corinthians 13:11) I'm sure I'm not the only girl who identified herself with the princess in a Disney movie...wasn't that their point?

The problem was, I'd given something precious away. Perhaps given isn't the right word, looking back with the hindsight of 33. In truth, someone had taken it from me. But I felt complicit, especially by age 11. A co-conspirator. The very best child abusers have that affect on their prey: it's the surest way against getting caught, to make the child believe they are just as much to blame as the abuser. I was afraid what I'd given away was the one thing that would satisfy the Prince of Peace.

And so this scene makes me small again. Scared. Heart pounding. I know the ending - the mermaid will lose the bet and become one of those small, unfortunate souls the witch feeds on. I was that afraid of what I'd believe that satan had that power over me. To keep me small and trapped and evil for the rest of my life.

I ride the flashbacks like bad waves on an angry motion, trying to surf them. Trying not to submerge in the ocean of guilt, disgust, shame.
A view of Mama courtesy of Amy's toy camera
I have to write it, say it out loud. I am free. I am forgiven. I am no longer walking in darkness. I wasn't then either. It was just a cloudy day for many years. But I was redeemed. I loved Jesus from the time I could toddle and talk. I got ensnared by a trap when I was 8. But my soul wasn't trapped. Just my feet. 

I remember reading Victor Hugo's poems in high school. "Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings." It took me 20 some years to understand this, although I loved it from the first time I read it. Whatever the circumstances, I can experience Christ's joy - however tenuous my perch seems - and freedom - for He has given my soul wings. That thing I had given away? That wasn't what He wanted. He wanted ME. However flawed, however frail.

Friends are the family you choose for yourself

We have known each other down to the marrow of our own grieving bones. We've known each hurt and heartbreak. Our tears have flown into a river together, yours and mine all mixed up. We've cried for sins, and depression, broken hearts, isolation, the broken Church, marriages and children and this whole broken world.

The miraculous is in the joy shared when everything dictates otherwise. We've laughed with tears still in our eyes, the laughter choking off the last sob in the throat. We've marveled together at the offspring that somehow share our DNA but oh what people they are becoming on their own. We've loved deep, for generations.
And sometimes it is a lonely path through the snow. Sometimes you're there to help people my wilderness. Sometimes now it's your daughters who come to my rescue.
We watch close as the next generation knits themselves into an unravelable thing called "beloved". There is no untangling this yarn that's bound us to each other since I was just a child. And here is the hands and feet of Jesus in the meals we've shared, the long talks, the knowing God together, deeper every day. There are thirteen of us now, caught up in this little everyday miracle. For is that not what you'd call a friend who is unfailing for 29 years?


Heart still beating but it's not working
It's like a hundred thousand voices that just can't sing
I reached out trying to love but I feel nothing
Oh, my heart is numb

But with you
I feel again
And with you
I can feel again

Five Minute Friday

Safe to shore

We've walked the rocky shore, my hand in yours, and yours is steady and steadies mine. In your embrace, I climb up from the dark abyss to reality, rappelling up on your love and your brokenness over my despair. You've been my strong fortress in times of war, my adviser in times of conflict, my voice of reason in times of foggy confusion. You are my peace, my warrior, my prince, my passion, my pride, my constant source of those glittering glimpses of joy on a joyless landscape.

It's the 11th Valentine's Day, and we've already given each other our gifts. Utilitarian givers we are, you give me wool and I give you a beard trimmer and we smile like kids in a candy store. There is no fading of this love, only a deepening saturation of trust and truth and triumph over trouble. The naysayers are long gone and have forgotten our 17 day engagement. When you know, you know - and neither of us were wrong about each other. At least I hope you would say the same, after cancer, career changes, church pain, depression, and all those days spent at our daughter's hospital bedside praying fervently for healing.

Are you a saint? Can an ordinary man be a minister unfailing to his broken other half? You hold out Words from Scripture like pearls in a black velvet box. You are my record-keeper, remembering all the good times when I am drowning in a sea of amnesia. You draw me back to shore, the shore where every stone is balanced perfectly on it's neighbor, like the memories balanced between good and bad. We lie down together in the curve of the agate earth, listen to the waves crash in toward us in the dark. We are safe on shore, our stories tangled up in each other like your legs and mine nesting against the beach. You've reeled me in again from disaster, and I lean hard on your warm shoulder.

My haven, my heaven on earth, my husband.

I don't like walking around this old and empty house
So hold my hand, I'll walk with you, my dear
The stairs creak as you sleep, it's keeping me awake
It's the house telling you to close your eyes
Some days I can't even trust myself
It's killing me to see you this way

'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

There's an old voice in my head that's holding me back
Well tell her that I miss our little talks
Soon it will be over and buried with our past
We used to play outside when we were young
And full of life and full of love.
Some days I don't know if I am wrong or right
Your mind is playing tricks on you, my dear

Don't listen to a word I say
The screams all sound the same

You're gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that's left is the ghost of you.
Now we're torn, torn, torn apart,
There's nothing we can do
Just let me go we'll meet again soon
Now wait, wait, wait for me
Please hang around
I'll see you when I fall asleep
~Of Monsters and Men, Little Talks~

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come..." (excerpted from Song of Solomon 2:3-12 ESV)

What if we're doing it wrong?

A pastor stood with rope in his hands at our wedding. "A cord of three strands," he repeated from Ecclesiastes, "is not quickly broken." In his words I felt the birth of two covenants. Our marriage, and our relationship with this church.


The problem is we're doing it all wrong, and it's killing people. Matthew 18 seems so flawless you can just recite it out in monotone and it works. This kicking people to the curb. This cutting off of the bad branches, the pruning, the training. But everyone who reads it that way seems to be forgetting a key phrase at the very end of the passage: "and if he refuses to listen to the church, treat him as a Gentile or a tax-collector."

Oh, hush! Do you hear it in the stillness? This is not the death knell to relationships or the final toll of the church discipline bell! This is a quiet, sure, Jesus love-song. It's a freedom song! Read it again, that last verse, verse 20, slowly. Pause between each word. and. if. he. refuses. to. listen. to. the. church...treat. him. as. a. Gentile. or. a. tax. collector.

You mean a Gentile, like Paul? The murderer, the hopelessly cruel Saul? Paul, to whom Jesus said, "I have picked him as my personal representative..."

A tax-collector like Zacchaeus? To whom Jesus Himself commended salvation, saying He had come to seek and to save the lost??


And so I have a good day, a distracting day, a day for me to go through the motions in my element. A day in which I laughed without forcing myself to laugh. Yet I get to the end of the full day, and in the vacuum of the emptiness crowd the same familiar ghosts. The ropes swing. Thoughts clang around when they shouldn't and I'm surfing on a sea of emotions, looking for dry land.

This is what you reduce a person to when you go for blood.

So I was lost, go count the cost,
Before you go to the holland road,
With your heart like a stone you spared no time in lashing out,
And I knew your pain and the effect of my shame, but you cut me down, you cut me down,

And I will not tell the thoughts of hell
That carried me home from the Holland road
With my heart like a stone and I put up no fight
To your callous mind, and from your corner you rose to cut me down, you cut me down,

So I hit my low, but little did I know that would not be the end,
From the holland road well I rose and I rose, and I paid less time,
To your callous mind, and I wished you well as you cut me down, you cut me down,

But I'll still believe though there's cracks you'll see,
When I'm on my knees I'll still believe,
And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found,
If you'll believe in me I'll still believe
~Holland Road, Mumford and Sons~

The naked soul

My husband and I, we're bare together. He asks me what I'm thinking and I do my best to tell him. With the children, I keep a few clothes on depression. Try to minimize it. Make sure they know I am not sad because of something they've done. 

I go for counseling, and my therapist is one of those people you'd be best friends with if you weren't in a professional relationship. I try to be bare with her, but fear creeps in: what if she thinks I need to go to the hospital? What if she thinks I'm an unfit mother?
I go to group therapy to learn how to cope with this mess. But here I'm wearing a long black cape. How does one get to a place where you share the intimate details of life with complete strangers - and all of them with issues themselves?  I speak only twice during group, from the shrouds of my cape, my eyes turned downward toward the worksheet I've covered with geometric shapes. A pictorial of my anxiety in black ink.
Somewhere in this stripped bare person there has to be a switch, a plug-in. Why do I feel so far from God? The Psalmist comforts, for he felt the same.
Do not cast me off...forsake me not when my strength is spent. O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (from Psalm 71)
He is there, He has not forgotten. To Him, my troubles come naked and parade themselves unashamed, for they have been washed in the redeeming blood. He is not afraid of the reel of sins my mind's eye is playing. He is not shocked by my naked sorrow. It is the one place I can go where speaking is not required, for He knows me in my nakedness, and peers deep into my troubled soul.
...then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind). (I Kings 8:39)

Five Minute Friday

Trust at the hitching post

Back and forth goes the brush, smoothing months of winter tangles on the back of a young horse. My friend is patient, gentle. The horse stands still at the post, soaking up the love.
There is no "trust" that compares to the relationship between a girl and her horse. He is tamed by her affection. She is tamed by his willing heart.

I have been the brute beast tangled in winter's coat, protecting myself from the cold. Softly, tenderly, you draw me out into the vulnerable places, the painful places. Brushing through all these tangles is hard work. But you are teaching me to stand still at the post, to feel your love in the brushing, to wait for that moment we can walk together as one.
When my soul was embittered,when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:21-28 ESV)

Yes, my heart and flesh may fail, but, my God, you never will. I am just old enough now to know that I have nothing mastered, despite previous suppositions. Just old enough to see that faith is an iceberg, and I am precariously perched on the narrow top although there is a deep foundation I will not see this side of heaven. When the doubts come, when I am stuck in the "not good enough" and "better off without me" trains of thought, I must remember the vastness of what you've built in me, even if it is submerged under your ocean of Grace and invisible to me. It is there, that foundation. Oh, soul, cling! Cling to the promises, for a new day is coming!

I need you to soften my heart
to break me apart
I need you to open my eyes
to see that you're shaping my life
All I am
I surrender

Give me faith to trust what you say
that you're good and your love is great
I'm broken inside, I give you my life

I need you to pierce through the dark
and cleanse every part of me

I may be weak
but Your spirit's strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will
~Give Me Faith, Elevation Worship~

Letters to Aaron: Unraveling

Some memories come fast and others slow. I remember times in prisons, times in chains, times of evil. You reel me in with your long, strong arms, and in the slow melting of two souls together that is our embrace, the good unravels inside me and coils there warm while you rock me just as you did when I bore our babies into this beautiful broken world. I remember this dance, strung on the guitar strings of sorrow, the first notes of a symphony of bittersweet joy.
Worry frays the day like fingers picking at the string on a sweater, and some days you come to end with a ball of yarn in your hands and shivering bare shoulders. Others are more successful, days when you can concentrate on something other than the fraying and keep fingers busy away from the string that unravels.

You were there for my reconstruction, a woman coming of age in her early 20s. You watched sunlight make it's tentative way across my features in the dawn of those first weeks of marriage. You've been pulling me toward the light ever since. Slowly, a slow dance towards an understanding of grace. A waltz towards forgiveness - you forgiving me, loving me, as Christ loved us - and I following quietly the dance steps toward self-forgiveness.
Now here we are with me deconstructed again. A jumbled pile of beams of the spirit - the things that hold us up: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith tossed in with the evil, wrong, wasted, wanting. I huddle close to the pile, afraid to look at these parts of me laid out in the broad daylight. You know each plank, each weathered board, each scar, each scratch in the paint. You're not afraid. You pull out a piece of lumber, hand it to me, and ask me to name it. It's Unconditional Love. It's from you, and from God. And it belongs right in the center of this new house we're building for my soul.

I think of the end of days, when my pile of moments will be lit on fire to refine for beauty. I know this house we're building means hard work, but if even one ruby falls from the ashes at the end of my life - oh, how I will thank you for that proof of your love holding up my shack when the wind blew hard.

It's been a long time coming since I've seen your face
I've been everywhere and back trying to replace
Everything that I had 'til my feet went numb
Praying like a fool that's been on the run

Heart's still beating but it's not working
It's like a million dollar phone that you just can't ring
I reached out trying to love but I feel nothing
Yeah, my heart is numb

But with you
I feel again
Yeah, with you
I can feel again
~Feel Again, OneRepublic~



"Just think of it as a chronic disease - like lupus - which flares up, ebbs and flows." The young psychiatrist looks at me warmly, with that practiced "warmness" we all rehearsed to cover up shock, disgust, terror that became part of our everyday lives. I survey the new doctor, wondering if he felt disgust when he looked at me just now. Slowly, my thoughts snake their way back his comment, the one that compares my depression with lupus.  Who willingly submits to the idea that there is something debilitating and wrong with them for which there is no cure?

On the other hand, I smiled at a baby today. Really smiled.

Now to submit to the pills and their ills and pray that they are my lifelink to the glowing end of the tunnel.

Take a long hard look at my face
Take away the things I can't replace
Take my heart, go on take it away
I've got nothing to say

Take away this sense of regret
Take the things I need to forget
Take the mistakes I haven't made yet
They're all I have left

I don't want to be the one who lets you down
All I did was run myself around
I wish I could have seen through your eyes
Maybe then I would have realized
I'm the only one who's bleeding
For the things I never needed
~"Things I Never Needed", Grace Potter~

The dagger of the mind

I have two kinds of fear. The kind of fear that whispers what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Ps. 56:3). This kind comes when I have to hand over someone I love to Christ's care.
I remember the many times I've wept for my third daughter. Through her brain infection, as we watched her fade away, and so many, many times as we've watched her creep back. Who knew a mom could feel fear teaching her baby the alphabet? But what if I can't?
Throwing flowers on Teddy's grave in November, 2009
There's a different kind of fear that attacks me out of the dark shadows. Fear of being swallowed up. Fear of fading away myself. Grief is a gaping pit into which one slips slowly, the light at the top fading quickly as we lose footing on the hard-scrabble walls packed down by guilt and shame. There is only one way back out - hitched up to the rope of rescue He throws down.
For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
Vergil described fear this way: Obstupui, steteruntque comae, et vox faucibus haesit. (I was stupefied, and my hair stood on end, and my voice stuck to my throat.) Macbeth famously quotes that fear is "a dagger of the mind." Time to put on the helmet of my salvation. No more daggers. I'm allowing myself to be dragged out of this pit.

My manual of skills from therapy tells me that the opposite of fear is courage. I am going to try. One act of bravery every day. I already have tomorrow's plan: going to a water park with friends without shaving. Yes, I'm going full on hippie in public. Simple. But I think it just might work.

Five Minute Friday