Monday, November 2, 2015


My daughter is a study in the art of letting go.

One minute, she is pitching an epic fit over a 3-year-old’s injustice: she wanted a braid, not a ponytail, or she didn’t want to put on her own socks and shoes. There are tears and screaming, sometimes foot stomping and dramatic flops on the floor. Some days I keep my cool and respond calmly but firmly. Some days, I don’t. 

By the time we’re loaded into the car, she has usually calmed down and is politely and happily requesting juice and the Frozen soundtrack. Meanwhile, I’m seething in the front seat, trying to remember to breathe and relax my jaw. I hand her the juice grudgingly (yes, that is a thing) and fight the urge to scream.

One day, though, I did something different. I followed her lead. When her storm passed, I allowed mine to pass, too. I took some deep breaths, turned up the music, and sang along. (“Let it Go” is an appropriate choice for such moments.) I felt lighter, happier. I realized it was possible to have a joyful morning even after we battled over which shirt to wear. For the first time in forever (see what I did there?), we parted without regret on my part. She happily trotted off to see her teacher and I happily went on my way to work.

One morning this summer was particularly hard. It was wonderful until it wasn’t, and I ended up sobbing in the kitchen while she watched with big brown eyes and said, “Mama, you’re sad? You’re crying? Because you’re not playing with me?” That got a reluctant laugh. I spent the day wallowing, convinced I was a horrible, incompetent mother who would never have a good relationship with her daughter.

That evening was our last session of mommy/daughter swim lessons. I was anxious and braced myself for a difficult lesson. Instead, we had an incredible time, one I hope she somehow remembers. 

She wasn’t holding a grudge over that morning’s struggles. Instead, she eagerly ran to hug me, ready for fun. The pool staff turned on the water play structure and we climbed up and slid down over and over again for a half hour. She overcame her fears of the spraying water and slide, and we got soaking wet and laughed and laughed. I felt a joy and peace I hadn’t felt in far too long.

I found redemption on that kiddie water slide.

We still have tough mornings, evenings, and in-betweens. Not every moment will be joyous, and I don't think I will ever stop doubting myself as a parent. But I'm learning that we can move through and beyond the trying times together and come out on the other side, still laughing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I Didn't Expect Her

My daughter loves to surprise me. This usually takes the form of running up to me and yelling, “SURPRISE!!!!” followed by her wildly giggling, “I surprised you!!” I tell her she has surprised me from the very beginning, and it’s true

We prayed and planned for a baby. That part wasn’t the surprise. The surprise came in the tiny bundle who was my mini-me and yet a mystery.

I didn’t expect her, this child with my big brown eyes, my husband’s facial expressions, and the combined force of our stubborn strength.

When I saw how much she looked like me, part of me hoped that her personality would mirror mine as well. Parenting was already outside of my comfort zone. If my daughter was like me, maybe it would all be a little less confusing and a little more predictable. But of course she is her own unique being, one who challenges me more than almost anything else in my life.

I was a quiet, timid child, content with books and pretend play. While my daughter loves those things too, she is active and exuberant. In place of my timidity, she has a wondrous fervor. She is utterly exhausting and enchanting all at once, wild and free and unashamed.

I know part of it is being three, but I also know there is something beyond simply her age. She has more spunk and sass than I ever have. She inhabits it naturally and unapologetically. This confounds me because it is so foreign to me, yet I admire her.

She pushes me outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis, and I need that. She helps me dig deep and grow in unexpected ways. Watching her tackle life head-on makes me more aware of my own strengths, weaknesses, assumptions, and motivations. I have to work to keep up with her.

She isn’t all energy and determination. She has a sweet, thoughtful spirit that never fails to melt my heart. When I told her Daddy wasn’t feeling well one day, she declared, “Daddy needs Hugsy!” and ran to get her big stuffed penguin for him. Her teachers tell us she comforts and encourages her friends when they are sad.

This combined strength and compassion will be a tremendous blessing to those around her. They already are to me: her strong will strengthens my own, and her sweet heart softens mine.

May I have the wisdom (and energy!) I need to teach her to use these gifts well.

May I celebrate her strong spirit, not fear or crush it.

May I see her for who she is, not who I want her to be.

I never expected you, my sweet, sassy girl. You are my favorite surprise.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Husband

Written for my husband for our 7th anniversary

Dear husband,

I love you.

More than that, I like you.

I forget that sometimes. I focus on the frustrating and miss your myriad wonderful qualities.

You have been there for me, always. Thank you for never giving up on me, for fighting for me. I gave you an out once, early on, when things got hard. You bought me dessert and we sat in your truck in the Applebee’s parking lot and we talked until 3 a.m. That was when I knew you wouldn’t run.

I trash talk that truck, but I have fond memories of sitting next to you on its tailgate, close but not touching, willing you to kiss me but knowing you were too gentlemanly to do so just yet. I didn’t know what to do with that. Sometimes I still don’t know quite what to do with you. You continue to confound me and challenge me, and that’s a good thing. I need that.

When we were first married, I wrote about how God gave me the husband He knew I needed, rather than the one I thought I wanted. I wrote then that you were the best thing for me, and it is still true. You have exceeded every one of my expectations for a husband. After all, as you are so fond of saying, “No one expects a Chris.”

You are generous and loving, hard-working and immeasurably patient.

You’re funny and quirky and encourage me to take things (and myself) less seriously.

You are skilled and smart in ways you don’t see or appreciate.

You are willing to risk and say what needs to be said. You are humble and thoughtful.

You never shy away from the hard and won’t let me either. Even though I get angry and resent that at times (okay, every time), it’s what I need and I am grateful for it.

You have always been honest with me, even when I don’t want to hear it. Especially then.

I can bring anything to you – anything – and though you may not understand or know how to respond, you always listen.

You push me to be a better Christian and remind me that that is what matters above all else.

You patiently encourage me and when I don’t listen to you or believe you (again), you speak the same encouragement to me (again. And again. And again).

As we celebrate seven years of marriage, I do feel an itch. I itch for seven times seven more years with you and then some. I long to be half as good a spouse to you as you are to me. I yearn to grow closer to you as we navigate the hard and celebrate the good together.

May we continue to grow, together. Always, together.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Telling My Story: One of Those Women

This is Part 5 of my story.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

“I can’t believe I’m one of those women.” 

That’s what I thought as I packed my getaway bag and stashed it in my car.

“I’m one of those women.”

I thought I knew what domestic violence and its victims looked like. It was sad, but it wouldn’t happen to me. I came from a loving, middle-class family. I had good friends. I was bright, educated, and talented. Not like one of those women.

I would never allow myself to be treated that way. I would know better. I would recognize an abusive man a mile away. I wasn’t weak, ignorant, or pitiable. Not like one of those women.

I had a clear picture in my mind of who those women were, and I wasn’t one of them.

Until I was.

I quickly learned what an abuse survivor really looks like:

She is poor, homeless, well-off, jobless, professional, godless, God-fearing, well-connected, utterly alone, young, old, gay, straight. She has a history of abuse and an idyllic childhood. She needed rescue or simply fell in love and can’t figure out how it has gone so wrong. She has no idea how she ended up in this nightmare, but she knows it’s her fault. She will keep trying to defend and fix her relationship until she can’t anymore. She will leave when she is ready. She may never be ready.

She is stronger than she knows and hates having to summon that strength each minute of each day. She has no idea how she will make it through another nightmarish night. She still hopes: hopes she is wrong, hopes things will get better, hopes he will change, because without that sliver of hope, she is lost.

Most importantly, she is real. She is not a statistic or a sad story or a political tool. She is a hurting human being. Whoever she is, she is doing her level best simply to survive.

She needs compassion. She needs safe people who will show her love, kindness, and patience, because her home life is hard enough. She knows she isn’t an easy friend, but oh, how desperately she needs that lifeline.

I was 23, fresh out of college, and was scared out of my mind. I was finally ready to leave.
I was one of those women.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Telling My Story: Lifeline

This is Part 4 of my story.
Part 3

Towards the end of the relationship, some kind coworkers invited me out for dinner and drinks. I knew my abuser would be angry if I wasn’t home on time, so I was reluctant. Our boss let us leave early so I could enjoy a fun evening. She wanted me to have that. She was the same one who later referred me to WEAVE. It was a miracle I wasn’t fired from that job, but she showed me kindness and I’ll never forget it.

I had a great time until I realized I had missed the last bus home and would have to call him for a ride. I panicked. He picked me up, furious, and drove me home. Not knowing what was going to happen, I told him I was going to take a bath and locked myself in the bathroom. I got a few minutes of “peace” until he came knocking. This wasn’t “the” moment I knew I had to leave, but it was one of my first moments of clarity about my situation.

The turning point may have been the night he came towards me in the middle of a fight, fist raised. It was the first overt threat of physical violence. I backed away, and he cried and asked, “How could you think I would hit you?!” He left the room and I sat in the dark, frightened and alone. I knew I needed to keep the peace in order to stay safe that night, so I apologized and comforted him, all the while wondering what the hell to do next.

I wanted to be rid of him, but I felt trapped. I didn’t know how to ask for help. I was confused and ashamed. I had spent so much time defending him and our relationship; I didn’t think I could do an about-face. I was afraid of how my family and friends would react. Would they help, or would they say, “I told you so,” and leave me on my own?

One night, I simply couldn’t pretend any longer. He left for the evening, and I called my parents. I nearly chickened out, but I finally told them the truth: things were horrible and I was afraid.

They responded perfectly, with love and compassion. They did absolutely everything right. I didn’t know it was possible to feel fear and relief simultaneously.

My parents told me I could come home whenever I wanted, and coached me through an escape plan. I didn't leave that night, but for the first time, I felt a glimmer of hope. After feeling nothing but dread for so long, I had a lifeline.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"We be brave together"

“I not scared. I brave.” 

We recently took the front off our 2-1/2-year-old’s crib, and while we improvised a rail to prevent her from falling out, her once cozy cocoon is now different. She’s still perfectly safe, but that one change is big enough to bring a degree of uncertainty and fear to her little world. All of a sudden, there are shadows in her room. Spooky shadows, she says, like Curious George saw. 

So we sing our bedtime songs and pray. She asks for a cuddle. I curl up on the edge of her bed, hold her hand, and stroke her head. She snuggles into her nest of stuffed animals and closes her eyes. I watch her (presumably) drift off to sleep and am overcome with my own uncertainty and fear.  

I’m raising a daughter. 

I’m raising a daughter. 

How am I supposed to do that? 

How am I supposed to teach her all the things she needs to know when I don’t even know them? 

How do I raise a child as a Christian when I still have my doubts and uncertainties, if not about God, then about parts of Christian culture? How do I teach her to navigate the crazy rules concocted by the world and the church without losing her mind or her self or her love for Christ?  

How do I instill that which I am just beginning to grasp? That it’s not about following man’s rules, that I don’t have to fit some mold, that it’s about deep, saving love beyond my wildest imagining, love I can barely begin to comprehend without breaking down in tears? 

How do I pray for her? How do I teach her these bigger things when I can barely get through the day of work and preschool drop-off and meals and dishes and “don’t hit the kitty, that makes him sad and scared” and figuring out basic teaching and discipline? If I don’t get to those bigger things now, if they get lost in the every day, have I completely messed up and missed out? 

Some form of these thoughts rush through my mind as I curl up on her crib, feel her tiny hand grasp mine as it has done since day one. She opens her eyes and says, “No macaroni and cheese. Don’t want it. Eggs and toast. No want them,” and I am, as ever, delighted and bewildered by her. I assure her that she does not have to eat macaroni and cheese or eggs and toast tonight and she settles again. 

I kiss her, extricate myself, and head to her door. Her little voice pipes up again: 

“We be brave together, mama.” 

That’s it. That’s exactly what I need, what we need. 

I don’t have to do this alone. I don’t have to hold it together because that’s His job. He protects me as I serve and hold fast to Him. Maybe it’s enough to settle in His love and grace, to learn as we go, together. 

Brave in Christ. Brave together.
We be brave together, baby girl. Tonight and always.