Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Yellowstone National Park is everything I expected it to be.

It's massive. Over 2 million acres. We drove all day long and didn't even make a dent in seeing everything.

It's as off the grid as anyplace I have ever been, with cell service so spotty it wasn't even worth it to try and use the phone. In fact, we saw an actual pay phone at one rest stop. I guess the park operators figure if someone gets mauled by a bear or falls off a cliff, someone needs to have SOME way to let the authorities know. It was definitely a strange experience, coming out of the park and having all our phones begin to blow up with texts and calls and notifications we had missed.

 Old Faithful was...well...faithful. We were able to get a great seat and only waited about 30 minutes before the most famous geyser in the world did her thing. Steam and occasional bubbling water kept us in suspense while we waited. Well, some of us. Ashely was less enthused. "It better get more interesting than this. We better not have come all this way to see a hole smoking." It did get more interesting. I'm not sure I'll ever NOT be totally in awe at the way boiling water just spews out of a hole in the earth, for several moments, all of the time. 

The animal activity was the coolest thing. It was like being INSIDE a zoo exhibit. Bison roam freely, sometimes solo and other times in massive herds. The first time we saw one, we climbed from our car to take pictures along with everyone else. A man nearby, holding his 5-ish-year-old daughter, responded to her repeated "What is it, Daddy?" question with the epically misinformed "Its a buffalo," response. Before I could even help myself, I went full teacher/defender of the identity of the animal kingdom. "It's actually a bison. Isn't he cool?" 

I have since looked up why it is that the bison are so often referred to as buffalo, and the original reason makes sense. The settlers were reminded of the herds of buffalo they had seen in their homelands, and so referred to the bison as buffalo early on. By the time the distinction was made...it was too late. We literally ate bison burgers at a restaurant called "Buffalo Bar." I am totally offended by this entire, perpetuated mistake, on behalf of all bison, and buffalo for that matter. 

**Side-bar: how often is this true in a spiritual sense? Someone says or does or believes something that isn't actually TRUE to the Word or character of God, and repeats it or allows it to be repeated often enough that it becomes widely accepted as okay, and culturally appropriate, and probably just an interchangeable term anyway. I can think of so many things, SO MANY, in Christian circles, that are flat out NOT accurate or in line with who we are called to be as believers and witnesses of Jesus, but we just go ahead and allow them because its been said or done or accepted long enough that we don't want to look like the crazy person for calling out the WRONG.

***Side-bar 2.0: I am not sorry I corrected that random stranger. I'm just doing my part to protect the truth. :)

Back to the animals: We witnessed a good old fashioned elk testosterone match. Complete with a locking of antlers, and aggressive elk shouting (otherwise known as bugling) as one giant male defended his family of females from a potential imposter. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life.

We are leaving Yellowstone today, and driving south to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for our final two days of my #birthdayadventure. We are footsore, but we are enjoying every moment of taking in God's creation. 

I'm sure, before it's over, I'll have a few more opportunities to defend the actual facts about something.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Lessons From a Mountain

 When making plans to hike in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, there are a few things its important to know.

1. The trail map lies about the length and difficulty. Straight up lies. Because if the map told you the truth...you would never do it. So when it says 6.5 miles, you should go ahead and assume that you'll be walking for 10. And the "moderate" label really should read "will be going straight up for at least half of the hike."

2. No matter how in shape you are, the elevation and amount of oxygen will leave you lightheaded and gasping for air. If you're LESS in shape...you may or may not have to stop every 30 steps or so on the vertical sections of the trail, in order to avoid passing out.

3. People on their way down will lie to everyone heading up. They will tell you that you're almost there, even if you're only a mile in.

4. The sense of accomplishment you feel when finishing the 6-that-was-really-10 mile hike will be real, but not as real as the sore muscles and tired feet if you happen to be older than 30.

5. There's no trash anywhere. None. There's a respect for the surroundings and commitment to preserving the beauty of the trails. 

The proximity to the wide open sky allowed plenty of time to think, and pray, and reflect. It was interesting to note how many spiritual parallels could be drawn.

1. No one willingly sets out on a trail that they know will be way worse than they think. And really, they'll be grateful they didn't know at the start. They'll also be thankful for their traveling companions to help distract from the gasping for air and morning muscles.

 2. We are never, fully, spiritually "prepared" for hard things when they hit us. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be in training at all times. Understanding that hard things are always ahead should make us train more, strengthening our spiritual muscles for the fight.

3. No person can truly equip you for the climb, the struggle. They can try, and sometimes their attempts are helpful. But really, the only One who is able to help is the one who IS breath and strength and courage.

4. You will feel accomplished, relieved even, when you make it through the thing that was way harder than you thought it would be. But...the effects will linger. You will not soon forget the aching, the pain, the struggle. 

5. But during the climb, during the struggle, during the pain, as you realize that you're close, so close, to the One who is always with you in the hardest times...you can look around and see purity and beauty, without pollution or garbage. Its just you and Him there on the path, and it's enough. He's enough.

And that's not even close to all you can learn from a mountain...but it's all I have energy for today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Anniversary Hope

 Ten years.



I've been sitting here pondering what to say on this, the 10th anniversary of my sister's death. But I've said a lot of things over the years, probably more than necessary. I've walked the process of grieving in a rather public way, and now that its a milestone anniversary...I feel as though I don't have new words to give it.

I want to. I always feel the weight of putting perfect words to the life, death, and story of my little sister. I don't have very many people in my immediate realm of days who ever even knew her. My children barely remember her at all. And so it feels like it falls to me to talk about her, so that they know.

In the first few months after Joy died, I met a gal in a Bible study group who had lost her brother. I gasped when she told me. "I'm so sorry. How long ago was it?" She smiled and said "It's been over 10 years now." I remember standing there, looking at her, and thinking, "There is hope. I will smile again someday. I will be able to breathe again. I can survive."

And so I have, by His mercy. Mom and I were chatting this weekend, and she said basically the same thing. "It's a miracle, but we have survived. By the mercy of God, we have survived."

There were plenty of days when I wasn't sure I would. When I didn't want to try. When the shattered pieces of everything I had ever felt certain of were slicing open my hands as I struggled to collect them. 

And I have talked about this before, about finding the Lord there, at the bottom, in the depth of deep agony. 

"I am with you," He whispered.

"I am with you. I am with you. I am with you."

Still, ten years later, when I am struggling, I can close my eyes and remember those words. Softly spoken words breathed into my heart, while I lay curdled in a ball on the floor with my arms wrapped around my head because I felt sure at any moment I was going to literally break apart.

He saved me that day, when I was drowning. He saved me over and over again. For ten years, He's come striding across the raging waves of pain, whenever I needed Him, and He's rescued me.

I won't retell all the ways. I've said them before.

How He gave me a vision of a hospital bed in Malaysia, and her in the room, and me hugging her and telling her I loved her, and how that was within hours of her death.

How He gave my little girl, my sweet 8-year-old daughter who was grieving so hard and so quiet, a vision of heaven, of Joy running down the hill to hug her, and telling her everything was okay..."She's so happy, Mom," were Faith's words to me when she told me about it. "It's so bright there, and Jesus is with her. They were walking on a hill, and Aunt Joy had her hair in a ponytail, and it was flying n the breeze when she ran down the hill to hug me. She smiled so big."

How He stood beside me and sustained me, and my family, while I wrote down the story, HIS story, of miracles and mercy, that made up the life of a skinny little girl from South Carolina who became a world changer. How He directed the steps that led to publishing that story. 


I think the biggest of miracles, the deepest mercy, is something I didn't expect until just now, and I was sitting here trying to give appropriate words to the occasion. 

There are words, phrases, truths, that resonate deep within me and from me, words that have always been true, but have also now been LIVED, and the depth of belief when I speak them and pray them and share them...somehow in those moments, I see that He has made a beautiful mosaic of His mercy through my shattered heart.

It is well...

Even if He doesn't...


Death, where is your sting?

I believe you, God.


Eleven years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a lovely getaway trip. 

We have made a big deal out of the 10th birthdays of all 4 of our kids. 

But I don't know how to commemorate this day. I've been asked several times what I wanted it to look like...and I don't know. It doesn't matter, I suppose. It's just another day in a long string of days missing her. So many more to come before heaven.

And oh, how I miss her. I miss her smile and her laugh and the way her ears turned red when I said something shocking. I miss the way my family was before we lost her suddenly: when the idea of not getting to sit with someone who was sick did NOT make all of us feel very triggered and nervous. When we didn't feel the weight of every goodbye being full of hugs and verbalized love, because it might be the last. When the possibility of losing someone didn't really feel like it could happen, but was more of a far off nightmare we didn't look too closely at. Those people were blissful. Those people are gone.

And in their place is a family with deeply etched scars. People who cry hard and long on this day every year. People who cling to each other in hospital waiting rooms, and say "I love you" more often, and swallow panic at the very real possibility of loss when it rears its head.

But we have learned to smile again. And we are aware, with a certainty that resonates in our very bones, of heaven, and mercy, and miracles, and sustaining power. We have lived them. We do live them, every day.

There's so much beauty to be found in Him today. SO much to be celebrated. So much to look forward to.

"All our burdens...all our pain...Jesus our healer...He has overcome."

"While I'm waiting...I'm not waiting...I know heaven lives in me..."

"Far be it from me to not believe...even when my eyes can't see..."

"With me in the calm...with me in the storm..."

"When night screams terrors...there Your voice will roar..."

"Take heart...let His love lead us through the night...hold onto hope...take courage again..."

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Power in Precedent

Guess what I found in the Word today? A precedent I had never seen before. 

It's a story I have read a dozen times, but that jumped out at me in a totally relevant way this morning.

Esther 4:1-8

In case you're familiar with the story, or in case you're not, here's the recap in my own words:

Esther was a Jewish exile in Persia, raised by her uncle, Mordecai. She was very beautiful, and eventually caught the eye of the guys looking for a new queen for the king. 

Haman was an official of the king's who had a very nasty death wish for Mordecai, and by extension, all Jews.

He got the king (who didn't know his wife was Jewish) to sign an edict that all the Jews in Persia could be put to death.

Mordecai, and the entire Jewish community, tore their clothes, put on sack cloth, heaped ashes on their heads, and mourned publicly over the edict. Weeping. Wailing. In utter despair. 

Mordecai went so far as to sit in the dirt in front of the king's gate, dressed in his 'death clothes,' so to speak, loudly lamenting the injustice that was widely publicized and totally acceptable to the majority of the people in the city.

Queen Esther heard about it, and sent him clothes to put on. Basically "dude, calm down, you're making me uncomfortable." Mordecai refused the clothes. Basically "I cannot be calm. My life is at stake here." 

So, finally realizing this was a really big deal, she sent messengers to ask him "WHY are you acting this way? What has happened?"

Mordecai responded by sending her a copy of the edict, and asking her servant to "explain to her what is happening and what it means." SHE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW up to this point. She was totally insulated within the confines of her own life until someone close to her threw back his head and wailed to be heard.

Her uncle begged her to go to the king and ask him to undo what had been done, to change things.

But "its agains the law to go to the king without being called...I will most likely be killed..." she responded.

"God's deliverance will come one way or another...but who knows? Maybe you were made queen for JUST SUCH A TIME as this..." came the grief stricken reply.

"Alright...I'll fast and pray for three days, and then I'll go to the king," the queen decided. "And if I die...I die."

Y'all. Are you kidding me? Do you see the parallel to the current state of our country? I swear, it was jumping off the page, dancing in living colors before my eyes today.

1. Unwarranted targeting of a group of people with a different ethnicity than those in power.
2. A deep, echoing outcry against the injustice that had been accepted without a second thought.
3. People all around who didn't even KNOW what had been happening, or what would happen if they stayed silent. 
4. Well-meaning, well-motived, unaware people saying: "Calm down, you're overreacting."
6. (and here is where all us white people need to start hearing the precedent of the WORD OF GOD) "Okay, Mordecai, I'm listening. Tell me why you're weeping. Help me understand. What can I do?"
7. Shocked revelation...and also hesitation. "I can't do anything about that. If I do, my own life (peace, status-quo, pre-determined ways of responding, previously held views, oblivious comfort, innocent unawareness) will be in danger."
8. Resolve, and also an invitation to WAKE UP: "God will fight for us. He's on the side of the oppressed. He's just. You don't HAVE to do anything. But maybe He put you in the place you are in (entrusted you with those resources, made you an ethnicity that commands attention, gave you the platform He did) for this exact moment in time."
9. "I will fast and pray" (Seriously...can you imagine if she had just knee-jerk responded without fasting and prayer? I can. It looks a lot like facebook conversations I keep seeing. Firing back and forth, trying to make the other side see things your way, defending yourself, not really sitting, for a long time, with the Spirit of God, allowing Him to speak to and prepare and encourage and calm you down before you say or do something that isn't in keeping with the One who is Peace and Love and Truth. Pull yourselves together, people. All of us on all sides should stop talking and fall to our knees and empty ourselves in order to hear from God) "and then I will go to the King."
10. She did exactly what she said she would do. She sought the Lord. And she acted. (once we have aligned our hearts to His, and tapped into His will, His strength, His direction for us to individually take...we do something to affect change.)

I do not know how this could be more clear. Seriously.

Even if you didn't know what was going on before now...now you do. Don't be defensive about the fact that you didn't know. Don't make excuses. Don't try to give your grieving friends 'new clothes.' Don't try to redirect the conversation, or placate, or gloss over, or make light of, or blame shift. Don't say a word at all until you spend a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Even though she was innocent of wrongdoing, Esther risked her life to set something right. She had no personal responsibility in the wrong that had been done, but she stuck her neck out, literally, in the hopes of righting it. 

So what if you aren't racist? So what if you have lots of black friends? So what if you believe most cops are the good guys and they shouldn't all be treated like bad apples? So what if you think rioting is wrong? So what if you disagree with wrong policies and rhetoric of those in power? 

Good for you. That isn't the point.

The point is, someone is grieving. And we can try to make it go away as quickly and quietly as possible, so as not to upset our comfortable oblivion. We can argue, defend, explain our position, use words when none are asked for...

Or we can listen to those who are grieving. Without feeling like we are condoning wrong, we can do what is right. And then take what we now see more clearly to the Lord, and sit in silence with Him, asking Him to give us the courage to do what He might be asking us to do.

And before we cut the story short with the knowledge that Esther did in fact do something, let's take a second to glance at what she did, and what she didn't do.

She DID go in before the king, and he did not have her immediately killed. And as she stood there before him, with the attention of everyone steadfastly fixed on what she was going to say, something that was so important to her that she faced death to say it...she chose her words carefully, with respect, kindness, and a desire to do this thing well.

She invited her husband to a meal, where she promised to talk more. And then she went and threw a grand banquet for him, and for her worst enemy, the man who had all but sealed her fate: Haman. And the privacy of that banquet meal, she pleaded for her life and the lives of her people.

11. She invited an opportunity for personal, intimate dialogue.
12. She used her resources to assist in the comfort of those involved.
13. She spoke plainly and clearly and bravely, but...

What did she NOT do?

She didn't shout and rant. She didn't throw things. She didn't accuse. She came in humility, and she used her resources and personal relationships in order to affect change. Privately, not publicly.

This then is our mandate. We better get up and do it. The way it has been modeled for us in Scripture.

That's the precedent in the Word of God. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Old School Apologies

A well-known fact about me, if you know me at all, is that I am rather "old school" in a lot of my preferences.

I can barely operate something as technologically advanced as a computer. Possibly because we didn't have one in our house till I was nearly grown, and no one under our roof knew much about how to work it...so I never learned. And then I married a super tech guy, so I never had to figure it out. 

My kids have to help me navigate at least half of the workings of our television and my cell phone.

I still enjoy, though I seldom find time for, writing letters- on actual paper, with an envelope and a stamp involved. Walking to the mailbox and putting up the flag...it feels like my childhood, and I deeply enjoy it.

I would much rather read a book that I am holding in my hands than on a computer screen. In fact, I don't know that I have ever, EVER, read a digital book. I've listened to audio books, which isn't ideal but does work when I'm driving. But E-books...no way.

I feel even more strongly about my Bible being a hard copy. I do have, and appreciate, my Bible app, especially when I need to cross-reference the wording of a particular version with another. Or if I'm looking for a specific verse and I know the gist of what is says, but can't recall where to find it in the Book, I will search for it on the app. So it has its uses in my life. But for my daily reading? I want to feel the thin pages between my fingers and strain to make out the small lettering and see the places I marked the last time I was in that particular book or chapter or verse...

I have a lovely new Insta-pot, but I'm still partial to my old crock pot, because I know how to work it, and don't know a single thing about all the buttons on the space-ship-Insta-pot.

You get the idea. I'm old school. 

I was recently in a conversation with my husband, where I was admitting to being "totally old school and not nearly progressive enough." And as I was saying it, the Lord all but stopped me in the middle of my words. I managed to stutter out the remained of my sentence, but then I fell into shocked silence as the Light of the World shined brightly on my heart, on the words I had just spoken, on the lie I was admitting to believing.

What were these horrifying words, you ask?

"I know its part of that backwards, sheltered, old-school, politically incorrect way or thinking, and I feel bad that I can't figure out how to become more progressive...but I just want to hear what the Word says on a subject, and align my life to that..."

And the Spirit whispered to me: "Did you just make apologies for choosing to allow my Word to guide your life?"

I've been marinating since then, acutely aware of the fact that I have frequently done that exact thing: I stand on who I know my God to be, as revealed in His Word, but I also apologize for how NOT-evolved that makes me. Why do I do that? I don't know.

Maybe I am hoping to make room and allowance for the fact that everyone has had a different life path, and we all feel differently on...well...a LOT of things. I know the going rhetoric about Christians being close-minded and judgmental. I am surrounded on every side by the ever-changing landscape of the world...maybe I"m hoping not to offend someone who has a different view than me, and so I just start out by apologizing for my 'old school' approach to...everything.

I also understand that much of the Scriptures are open for debate. SO many different views of the same verse exist.  Maybe I apologize in the hopes of not getting into a debate about a difference of opinion? 

As I've been sitting in this revelation, stewing over the fact that I feel strongly about the Word as the reference for my life, but also make haste to apologize for that fact...the Spirit of God has been reminding me of a few things.

Memories have been parading through my mind.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather was killed in a car accident. I have a vivid picture in my mind from that time. In a gray chair in one corner of our family room, my mom would sit, her Bible open in her lap, her face in her hands, weeping.  She was so young when she lost her dad. She was heartbroken. And in it, she clung to the Word. She dropped physical tears onto the pages.

When I was in a very dark depression, my husband came and sat on our bed one night, opened his Bible, and started reading it to me. And I wept, silent tears streaming for an hour as his voice carried through our room. That was 15 years ago. My husband still reads to me every evening. Because the Word saved my life that night. And that makes it something worth grasping onto.

When my sister died suddenly on the mission field, I laid in the middle of my living room floor, barely even able to cry. I felt I would drown in the pain. And do you know what? I saw a raging storm in my mind. I felt the waves crashing. I knew I was about to die. I could not catch my breath. I was there with the disciples in that boat. And there, Jesus came to me, walking on the water. He spoke to me, echoing His Words through my heart. "Don't be afraid...take courage...I am here..." (Matthew 14:27)

I have never, in my whole life, seen the Word and the Spirit of God prove anything but life-giving, life-sustaining, true and faithful and entirely able to withstand any storm.

If that makes me unusual, old-school, or backward...I'm thankful. I don't apologize for my bone-deep KNOWING that He is there with me in anything, in ALL things.

I was praying last night, grieving over the horrific injustice of this broken world, over the evidence of hatred and ignorance and cruelty and SIN that is so visibly apparent, and deeply affecting people I love. I asked the Lord, "what do I do? What can I say? What is Your heart?"

And, because it's been true all of my life, the Word answered me.

"I punish the wrongdoers..." (Deuteronomy 32:35)
"God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7)
"I will come quickly and save them; the time of my victory is near..." (Isaiah 51:5)
"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted..." (Psalm 34:18)
"...He will help the oppressed..." (Psalm 72:12)
"Arise, O God, defend Your cause..." (Psalm 74:22)
"In Your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth and perform awe-inspiring deeds." (Psalm 45:4)

I stand with Him. And He is on the side of those in need of defending, on the side of the oppressed. He is close to the broken-hearted. He defends truth and justice. He will not be mocked.

He has performed so many awe-inspiring deeds in my life. And believing that He will do it again, on behalf of truth and justice for the oppressed, might make me "old-school." But I do not apologize.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


It's still silent in my house this Mother's Day.

I remember the days when I would've given anything for silence in the 7 a.m. hour...and the 6 a.m. hour, and the 2 a.m. hour...

But time marches on, doesn't it? And no one is more aware of it than the mothers. It seems to jump and skip forward suddenly some days, and other days it feels like the season that will never end.

As I sit this morning, I am pondering on my current life season, with just the gurgling fish tank and my coffee for company. It isn't lost on me that I used to get extra hugs and kisses from my kids as Mother's Day gifts...but this morning I awoke to a vase of fresh flowers that my 18 year-old went and purchased with her own money. Also, the gift of mostly grown man-children who sleep all night long and half the morning...that's a magical present that never gets old.

I have been thinking about all the different places in life that all the women in my sphere find themselves this morning. And how no matter what emotions greet us today...it's hard to imagine what it will feel like when this particular season ends, changes, looks different than it does now. I know I couldn't actually picture what a full night of sleep would feel like, even though I was assured by all the mom's of older kids that it was a real thing that would one day be part of my life again...but now I regularly sleep the whole night, and the memory of waking up every other hour to feed a baby...well, it's just that, a memory.

We feel unseen sometimes too, don't we? In that place, in the plodding forward of days and time and work...does anyone notice that we haven't showered or brushed our hair or changed our clothes or manicured our eyebrows? As women, as the multitaskers of the human race, we just move forward and keep DOING ten things at once, and then ten new things, and then more...and our minds are whirring through all the things still to come...and I swear if I locked myself in a room that no one used but me (so, the laundry room, am I right?) the first creature to notice I was missing would be the first creature who went hunting for something I regularly kept supplied that had suddenly run dry. My husband would wonder where his clean underwear were. Or my daughter would be out of her special, lactose free coffee creamer. Or the dogs would have an empty water bowl. Or one of my sons would not understand why his iPad was mostly dead and sticking between the couch cushions rather than waiting, plugged in and fully charged, on the counter, like it usually was every day. Or there would be no pop tarts when the pantry was opened. No neatly straightened sheets and blankets when they went to crawl in bed. No extra rolls of toilet paper waiting nearby when they sat down without checking the current status of the holder. No bills paid. Or dentist appointments scheduled. No one else in the whole house who knew where to find the thermometer or the Tylenol or the bandaids or the broom or the laundry room where I was hiding.

SO much of what we do is unseen, unless its left undone. Our work goes unnoticed, while our lack of work is a pain clearly felt.

Not all the time, obviously, and lest you think I am complaining...I am not. I am simply pondering on all that my own current life season requires of me, and wondering how much of it I will notice has changed as years go on. And will anyone else see?

So, this Mother's Day, my 19th celebration as a mother, I want to remind all the ladies out there, whatever your status, of something the Holy Spirit whispered to me in the quiet of my home today.

Our God sees us.

In His Word, He tells us it's one of His names. "The God who sees..." You know who first calls Him by that name? A mother. (It's in Genesis 16, if you want to go read it for yourself.) 

I'm so glad, so grateful, that He sees me today. That He saw me when I was awake at 2 a.m. with a baby. That He sees me in 10 years, with no children at home anymore.

Being SEEN by HIM and KNOWN by Him...it's life, isn't it?

For all who were up all night with a baby...
For all who are empty nesting...
For all who long to be mothers...
For all who have lost their moms...
For all who have lost children...

For the ones drowning in laundry...
For the ones paralyzed by loneliness...
For the ones who feel overwhelmingly blessed and happy...
For the ones who feel only pain and longing...

No matter where you are, what season of life greets you today...

You are seen.
I am seen.

We are known.

Because the One and Only says it.

And I believe it.
And you can too.

Friday, March 27, 2020

To My Daughter on her 18th Birthday.

I remember the day you were born.

It's not the kind of thing a mom forgets. 

I remember that you came into our world, red-faced and wailing, and you changed us forever.

I remember thinking, as I held you for the first time, with tears rolling down my cheeks, that it was the beginning of a long, wonderful journey.

"I've got so many things I want to tell you. So many things we can do together. So much blessed, sweet time ahead, me and you."

And we have had more fun together than I could ever attempt to convey. Fun that, at the time, seemed a part of the normal progression of life. But right now, while you're sleeping still, and I am thinking back...right now I feel as though a spotlight is on all our moments over all these years.

We had so many tea parties.

We read so many books.

We played baby dolls. And barbies. And house. And legos.

We went for walks. And to the zoo. And to museums. 

We sang songs together. More songs than I can even begin to try and put a number on. 

We played games. And worked puzzles. And watched movies.

We've laughed till we snorted. Laughed till we cried.

We've cried. And cried. And cried.

If I had known, really known, on this day 18 years ago, that all those memories would feel like they took 5 minutes to accomplish...I would've tried to move more slowly through them.

Because now, today, I feel a little bit of panic, wondering if you're really ready. Did I teach you enough? Did I love you enough?

If only there were more time.

But I can't go back, and I can't press pause, and I can't slow the march of days that have made my skin wrinkle and my hair turn gray. That same time has morphed you from a tiny, dimpled, chubby-cheeked cherub, into a lovely, magical adult. 

I love the person you have become. 

I have loved every moment of you being my little girl. 

I will love every moment of you being my grown-up daughter/friend. 

In case I haven't said them enough, here are a few things I would like you to burn into that beautiful soul of yours, and never forget.

- You will never be too grown up to lay your head in my lap and have a good cry.

- You will never learn everything you need to know. But don't let that stop you from learning.

- You will always have to fight hard for the people you love. It will always be worth it. 

- Your heart will break, one way or another, because life hands us hurts. And when it does, I'm here. 

- Your plans and dreams and hopes will shift and change. You wanted to be a princess once, after all. In my eyes, you already were. Don't freak out when the changes come. That's the way of it.

- Hold tightly to the things that matter. Hold the rest loosely.

- Give away more than you accumulate.

- Laugh as much as you can. Cry as often as you need to.

- Regardless of one thing you have ever done or will ever do, I am proud of you, I am blessed that the Lord gave you to me, and I think you're the most beautiful creature I know.

- Even when you're old, with wrinkles and gray hair, you will still be my baby girl. Come over. Let's have a tea party.

Welcome to adulthood, my daughter, whatever that even means.

There's so much more to come. I'm excited to see it with you.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Warriors

This is a story about 11 warriors.

They are unassuming at first glance. An underdog, ragtag band, hastily brought together by circumstances.

Looking at them, you would never know all the hardship life has handed out, because their faces don't give away their scars. They work and sweat and bleed and cry and FIGHT despite them.

There are the leaders, of course. Tallest, strongest, most skilled. The captains. The ones on whom rests the weight of responsibility.

These two bleed the most. They sweat the most. They take the most abuse from their opponents.

Nearly every time they face off against a foe, these two walk away limping or bruised, and often both. None of the other warriors can carry their burden for them. It's theirs because that is the way of things.

Looking at the faces of these two, only a few know their story, their journey, the internal fight they are always in. 

Only a few know that these shoulders, so broad and strong, have been bent to the breaking point by sadness. Brokenness, the kind that must be gut-wrenchingly sobbed out, has been part of their journey. Loss and heartache that nothing but time can heal has shadowed their eyes. They haven't always been brave and strong and able to carry this weight of leadership. Some days they still don't think they are. 

Then there is the second line of warriors. The ones who rally their leaders' spirits with their encouragement and support. The ones who aggressively, resoundingly, defend the hearts, minds, and bodies of their comrades. They may not be able to carry the mantle of leadership, but they will fight hard to make sure that mantle is as light as it can be. And when their captains falls, they scoop them up with the sheer force of their will and determination. And when their friends bleed, they make the enemy bleed in return. And when their comrades suffer, they suffer too, and they rise to fill in the gap that is left by their wounded fellows.

Anyone who watches the 9 who are led by the 2, knows better than to cause trouble. Because these 11...they are brothers. They have fought hard together. Over and over and over again, they've gutted out the battle. Not so they could win victory for themselves, but so that they didn't leave their teammates to fight alone.

They've pushed through physical injuries, illnesses, and hardships.

But looking at their faces, no one can see their internal wounds.

If you knew all that they've been through, you might see them differently.

Broken homes
Broken promises

Knowing that they have carried so much...its hardly any wonder that they've fought with all their might to keep each other from carrying any more alone.

Each one that steps into the fray has the same look on their face. You can almost hear it thundering from their heartbeat.

"These are my brothers. I will do my part. I will carry this with them. I won't let them fight alone. Come what may, I will defend, and assault, on behalf of those I love."

And they do love each other. Some have been together for much longer than this particular war. Some have only recently been brought into the circle of brotherhood. But they love each other well. THAT is why they fight so hard. Camaraderie compels them.

They are selfless, pushing past the limits of what they want to endure. Not for themselves. For the sake of the team.

They take the punishment of the battle, and they hand out punishment in kind.

And when the dust settles, and the adrenaline fades, and they've limped home to bandage wounds and wipe away sweat and tears and blood...

They haven't been victorious in all of their battles, at least not the battles we have seen. That isn't the story they have come to tell.

This story is about the wars inside them...and there, there has been so much victory.

The rejected have found acceptance.
The abandoned have found restoration.
The broken-hearted have begun to mend.
The insecure have learned confidence.
The rebellious are learning discipline.
The anxious are beginning to calm.
The fearful have become courageous.
The underdogs have become invaluable.

The warriors may not have won all the battles they fought.

But they never stopped fighting.

For each other. Their brothers. 

And that right there is true victory. And when it's over, they smile at each other, and they raise their chins and meet each other's eyes. And they don't have to talk. We can all hear what they're saying.

"We will fight again. We might win. We might lose. But for each other, for the sake of our brothers...WE WILL FIGHT AGAIN."

Thank you, warriors. You have represented us well.

We are so proud of you all.