“Sing, ‘Impossible’, Mama!”

It’s the same request I used to make of my own Mother before bed.  I wish it wasn’t so cliche to be a little girl who adored Cinderella.  The Disney version sufficed for the first few years, but it wasn’t until I watched the made for television Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella when I really came alive with the story.  I would watch our grainy VHS tape over and over again, rewinding the part where Cinderella is broken hearted just to look up and see her fairy godmother’s shimmering figure.  This was where the magic happened.  The, “Impossible”. I reveled in the impossible.

I know there have been so many critics and theologians and pastors and spiritual directors who generally use the illustration that God is not Santa, or a Genie in a lamp, or your fairy Godmother.  They say that to enforce the fact that it is the relationship between God and yourself that is the gift- the understanding of atonement and transference and deep, abiding love.  And absolutely, they are right.  They are.  Except-

When I watched that scene as a child, I cried real tears at 5 seeing how tenderly the fairy godmother held Cinderella’s cheek.  How there was no judgement at Cinderella’s final loss of hope, after holding on for so long.   And finally, how her Godmother took ordinary, dirty, everyday things and transformed them into something regal and shining.  Impossible.

We feel as though we are facing an enormous amount of impossible these last, few weeks.  One night before bed after it was evident that I had been crying my girl held my cheek and suggested softly, “Let’s sing Impossible, Mama.” And in that moment I remembered the God of the universe who created all things for my good, the one in the stories of others and my own, the one who holds all things together, His strength and His whimsy and dare I say it, magical way of doing the impossible.

Always doing the impossible.

Tough Talk

Dear Self,

Knock it off.

You’ve been mopey for days and it’s time to end it.  Yes, sure, pregnancy hormones can certainly affect these things, but lets take some responsibility here.  There are a few things we need to get straight, and I’m not sure you’re going to like it but since you’re me, and I care about your well being, it’s imperative.

First of all, this whole life being hard thing is not unique to you.  The whole paycheck to blessed paycheck- you’re not the only one doing it.  You’re not the only one who has suffered loss, not the only one who has to work for hope, not the only one who’s lived through some things. So stop acting like the world begins and ends with you and how you feel.

It doesn’t.  How you feel is actually irrelevant when faced with truths.  Like God has promised to clothe us and feed us and provide shelter.  To love us as children.  Has He ever not come through on those things? No? So why have you spent the last half hour crying over a bill you can’t pay, a house that’s too big to pack, a pair of jeans that (might) never fit again? Because you think He’s shown up so many times, surely He won’t rescue you again? Is that how it works with your children? Is there a time when you will look at Ellie and say, “Sorry kiddo, your rescue quota has been reached.  Bail yourself out this time.” No? Isn’t God your Father? Don’t you tell other people that all the time? Do you really believe it? No one would believe it if you did the way you’ve been this week.

Stop waiting.  Stop waiting for things to change, for life to change, for things to magically happen on their own.  Sometimes God steps in in weird and miraculous ways and it is magical and mystical and we hold onto those moments forever.  Most of the time, He gave us free will for a reason and a mandate to have a community of people around us for sounding boards.  Just do it already, damn it.  Stop wondering if it’s a good idea or something God wants you to do or if you’ll regret it.  And let me assure you, in almost all circumstances, the first roadblock is not a “sign” that you shouldn’t do it.  In my experience, if I wasn’t meant to do something, God shut the whole thing down.  The roadblocks are something we have to push through, knowing the whole while that it’s not our own strength.

Shut up.  Stop talking.  Stop filling the air with all of your banter, quiet or otherwise.  Actually listen and observe for a while.  Did you notice Ellie’s used the words, “perfection” and “Afraid” a lot this week?  Did you?  Did you seek it out as an opportunity to teach her how we all try and fail and that it’s good and normal and even can be wonderful to make mistakes? Does your own fear and your own noise and your own insecurity outtalk your own child? Are you missing what your husband or your daughter or your friends need because your own needs are so loud and in the way?

Rest.  Yes.  Take a Sabbath.  Take a bath, take a nap, read a book, write.  Do what gives your soul life.  But do not misunderstand- rest is not synonymous with laziness.  Walk away from the Netflix and the take-out menu.  Enough is enough.  Let’s call it what it is.  You can do better than that.

I give you permission- to be a writer today, if that’s what you are.  A teacher.  A singer.  A Mama.  A theologian.  An actress.  A chef.  No one has to give you permission, but I will because you’re me and you seem to need that.  Be those things, but be them fully- that means actually sitting down and writing.  Actually getting in the kitchen for something other than a glass of water.  Reading.  Practicing.  DOING.  You don’t need someone to tell you what you are.  You know who God has crafted you to be- but no one else will unless you do something about it.

Let all the small things go.  All of these details that seem to run your life, they only do because you let them.  Need time with your husband? Make it.  Hire a sitter, make a reservation.  Done.  Do the best you can and then let it go.  Don’t answer the phone or the text or the email until you’ve taken care of your family, and yourself.

Guess what? You have it pretty good, you know.  Your life.  It’s a pretty marvelous, beautiful thing.  Stop whining about it.

Good talk.

What’s Your American Dream?

So, we did it.  We did it all.  We did the marry your childhood sweetheart thing.  The get married young thing.  The establish careers thing.  The buy the house thing.  The have babies thing.  (well, we’re still in the process of that one). And you know what?  After ten years of marriage, 6 years of excessive mortgage payments, ten years of jobs some we loved, most we hated, several losses of babies, many tears and triumphs and joys and sorrows later, we’re ready to redefine what our dreams are.

My husband and I sat down a few months ago and asked ourselves, what do we really want? What do we want to pursue? How do we want to raise our children? What do we want our everyday to look like at home?  How is that different than what it looks like now? What it looked like ten years ago?

It looked different.  Way too different to ignore. Big changes were necessary.  But, big changes are scary.  Especially when they go against the norm, or what is expected.  I suppose we were never really good at doing the expected.

Our new dream was for Rich to feel free to change careers without threat of financial ruin.  I have recently just this year been given some amazing opportunities to teach in different capacities and to take a deeper step into church leadership that I would love to be able to pursue, and some creative/writing opportunities that really give my heart joy.  We want both of us to be home as much as possible with our (two!!!!!) miracle babies.  We never want to take for granted the blessing these girls are, and what it took to get them here and we want to maximize our time with them without deeply sacrificing financially.  We want Ellie to attend a public school next fall that we believe will do her little brilliant brain justice- we’re big proponents of being in the world, not of it but the public school we’re currently sanctioned for gives us grave concerns about her education, and even, her well-being.  We want more family, more time, less bills, less stress, more joy, less painful wake-ups, more of each other.

So, we’re doing something a bit crazy.  As of October, we will be putting our beloved house on the market in order to rent in a different town, closer to the train, in a much better school district.  The decision to let the house go was fraught with indecision and much sadness.  It’s our first house.  But, it won’t be our last.  This season in life lasts for only a moment- when the children are little and precious.  We know that very soon they won’t want us to snuggle or take them to a movie or hold their hand while they fall asleep.  We also know it’s imperative for children to see their parents pursuing the things they love- that gives their hearts joy.  It makes us better people, which makes us better parents.

Part of us feels like we’re going backward- but didn’t we work so hard to get to this one place? Perhaps.  But we’re to follow no one’s dreams but our own.  Even if they look a little out of the ordinary.  And dreams change all the time- why not forge our own way?

Why don’t you?

To Be Known

Well, the cat’s out of the bag so they say.  It would be futile to wait any longer to share the news, considering second children apparently like to make their presence known as soon as they are conceived (i.e., helllllloooo maternity jeans from week 6 on up).  There is no hiding the child steadily growing in my womb.

But I really wanted to.

We’ve been public about our losses in hope that it would be a light in someone else’s darkness.  I haven’t hidden the hit my faith took this past January as we let go of a child long awaited for.  Our third we sent to meet Jesus before us.  In some way, it’s almost easier to share things laden with sorrow, hands outstretched and open, having already given up.  This hope thing, that is much harder.

I struggled with telling our darling girl we were expecting again.  We waited, in fact, until just a few weeks ago.  Every time I opened my mouth to share the news with her, the images of her brokenness over the loss of our last one played on loop in my brain.  If I could have hidden it until delivery, I would have.  Alas, my body betrayed my plans.  This little one wanted to be recognized- to be known.  Don’t we all?

I wish I could say it has been easy this time.  That I didn’t wake with nightmares several times a week of cold, hospital beds and empty cribs.  I wish I didn’t spew my worries to heaven instead of praying.  Please let it live.  Oh God.  Please let me live.  Please let us live to see each other.

Each ultrasound with a beating heart is a tearful event.  The relief to hear the rush of pounding.  Every time I walk in thinking I will hear nothing.  Every time I walk out in streams of watery gratitude.  We made it one more week.  One more day.

But this one.  This one wants to be known.  It waves and dances on the screen, mouth opening and closing rapidly as though it was talking already, telling me all of it’s secrets.

I want to honor it’s request, though it is so very hard for me to have hope.  The fact that we discovered it was a girl right in the middle of my sermon series concerning women’s Biblical equality is not lost on me.  She has been listening.  She wants to be known.

So, Cecilia Jayne, little Miss Cece, now everyone knows.  And we are waiting, with desperate hope, for you.

We’re Not Ready Yet

Someday, my love, we’ll be sitting at a restaurant we’ve never been to. We’ll share a bottle of Brunello, because we always said that ten years from now, we would. I’ll be wearing pants that cost more than a turkey sandwich, because our children will be old enough not to spill on me anymore and lipstick because no one was jumping on my bed as I was getting ready.  I may even wear heels, though Lord knows I’ll need help walking in them it’s been so long.

Someday, over candlelight and a white tablecloth, we’ll giggle about how we used to call our parents exactly at 4:30 to see if we could “stop by” with the kids, hoping they would feed us and we could x Thursday dinner off the budget list.  We’ll remember what it felt like to put back dish detergent and make our own to save 50 cents.  We’ll talk about the time when we couldn’t tell the difference between night and day- for years- and we’ll speak about it with fondness for the littleness of our children, who are now half way to grown.  We’ll remember the way they smelled right after they fell asleep, the first time they were sick- I cried then, and every time after, and you always kept it together for me.

We will order appetizers, and salads, and then the main, and dessert because we won’t have to pay a sitter anymore.  We will even linger, finish the bottle, and order espressos because if we are up for one night, we can handle it now.  We sleep the rest of them.

We’ll whisper long into the night about the parent teacher conferences, and the strange first words- “Bobbi-doe”- that we swore had meaning in another time.  How their hair went from blonde to dirty blonde, to the color it is now.  And I’ll tell you what a joy it was to parent along side you- to watch you wipe their tears and their vomit and their hearts off the floor.  To sit beside you as one of the only Dads present at every single meeting, show, play, game, match.  You took off of work, took buses and trains to run to them.  And to me.  That’s how they always see you, as running to them.

We’ll laugh about how tight things were then- how we had to choose between which bill to pay or which whole chicken to buy.  How you stayed at a terrible job for far too long, and how it all seems so funny and different now and how grateful we were for how it forged us into the people we became.

We’ll whisper over dregs of coffee about the times we threw dinner parties with our last ten dollars.  How we spent our tax return each year on a summer vacation in the mountains so our babies could know what it meant to breathe good air and soil. To swim.  To laugh without volume control. To be together and have it be enough.

We’ll close down the restaurant and we’ll walk in silence back to the car, grateful for where we are, but slightly sad for what was.  We will miss the times she sang us awake at 3 am with show tunes.  You will miss her little girl voice.  I will miss having crooked lipstick because we always had to share the mirror.  We will miss this.

This that is happening right now, we will miss it someday.  The dirty clothes and the dirty hair and the tired bodies and the lack of sleep and the missing of each other because there are little people who take up space between us and the empty bank accounts and the empty cabinets and the little girl giggles and the disney movies and the tickle fights and the million wet, lollipop kisses- we look back on this, right now, as being one of the best times of our entire lives.

And we will be right.

So I will make you a cup of tea, and we will watch UmiZoomie one more time until we feel like our eyes will bleed because we know, in ten years, our cups will hold a wine too expensive for the mugs we have right now.  And there is a table, with a white tablecloth waiting for the next act of our lives.  But it’s not ready yet.

Neither are we.

Thoughts for Wednesday

Though it is nearly entirely blasphemous to admit in this household, I hate the muppets.  The show, the movies, the stuffed animals.  They creep me out.  My husband and daughter watch Muppets Take Manhattan nearly 4 times a week and I must pretend as though I want to clean the kitchen.

I spoke in church on Sunday.  You can tell a lifetime of experience in that one sentence.  History prevented me from saying that I delivered the sermon  on Sunday and will continue to do so for the next three weeks.  On WOMEN. And I adored every single brain tingling, late night researching, terrifying butterfly-bellied second.

Ellie doesn’t start school for another week and though I am loving the extra time in our jammies and the snuggles I am ready for her to go back now with all of her 406,708 questions a minute and make someone else’s head tired for just a little.  Really.

Sometimes I pray that someone will magically want to bestow upon us a gift of paying the rest of our debt, and a little English cottage with a garden and no mortgage.  Yup.  I really do.  You never know.

After having stated how grateful I was not to have to commute to NYC anymore, I’ve found myself already formulating plans to go back on several upcoming dates.  Just because.  It does that to you.

I have a mild obsession with proper English baking these days, which is not conducive to this insane weather.  Scones for all!

The weather.  Did I mention the weather?  Mind you to remember that I never complain of the cold.  The cold doesn’t make my legs chafe and my forehead sweaty and my head dizzy and perpetuate this slight nauseous feeling ALL day.  My body rejects when the temperature climbs above 80.  It has been a miserable week and I’m hearing it will just continue into the next.  Though I abhor the heat, I do love when it stays lighter longer so I am trying to be grateful.  Trying.  While sitting in front of the refrigerator.

Though there’s been a resurgence in my baking, my cooking has all but disappeared.  It’s too hot for that.  Thai on speed dial.  I’m on strike.  Until risottos and cassoulets and roasts and stews can be on the menu, I am off duty.

I’ve been in awe of all mothers, watching this week as some of my friends return to school to teach and leave their young ones home.  We are a strong, careful breed who constantly question whether or not we’ve made the right decision every 30 seconds.  I know I do.  I am with you all as you return and juggle over-crowded classrooms and high administrative expectations while you spend your lunch break crowded into the janitor’s closet, singing ABC’s to your littles on the phone.  You’re all a marvel, and are doing a great job. Your kids will be better because of who you are.

I am unsure of how it goes in other households, but I would be completely lost without my husband.  He’s a stellar parenting partner and does all the laundry, which I hate to do.  But above all of that, I don’t know how anyone lives without doing so being married to their best friend.  We can laugh no matter how tired or sad we are.  He’s the one I’d choose over and over again.  It’s fun to see how that hasn’t changed in the 12 years we’ve been together.

I must get better at keeping a calendar.  The one on my phone is useless, I never look at it.  How do you keep things organized????

I’ve officially written this blog post to avoid sorting all the bills.  It can wait no longer.


In the quiet of the morning, on the week before things begin, there’s time for one more cup of coffee. It’s an unusually cool day, and though summer hasn’t breathed it’s last, hot breath yet, I am taking today as a sign of things to come.

I haven’t written very much here this summer. I almost felt like it was time to allow my voice to rest.  My mind.  My body.  I hope you don’t mind.  I let myself off the hook this summer and just, well, breathed.  And learned something fairly significant about this hook thing, and how I dangle from too many of them, lines running from fingers and toes in different directions.

I read a few books, and some of them were meant to be helpful, and others were pieces of fiction that were just as important.  I heard it said that if you want children to be smarter, to read them fairy tales.  I read my share of them this summer and I may attest to this truth.  There’s beauty in the redemptive love and conflict of a fairy tale- not unlike real life.  Just, beauty is always the focus in tales, and we seem to forget about carrying that over into our every day.

This will be the first school year that I will not be commuting very much (if at all) to NYC.  I will miss my maple latte from Grounded, the leaves, the twinkle lights in Tea and Sympathy’s fall decor.  I will miss the village where I found my footing as a Mama and as a professional- where I learned that I could do both with confidence.  I spent two whole years wandering Perry and 4th waiting for my sessions to begin, haunting Tartine’s windows, dodging foreign Sex and the City fans with selfie sticks.  As a teenager I swore to make that little neighborhood my own- what a beautiful thing that it was where I continued to find pieces of myself throughout my adulthood.  New York grows with you in the bravest, most endearingly prickly way.  I will miss it dearly.

And in the same way, I am ever so thankful for the shift.  That I will be New Jersey side with families I’ve grown to love, in a district part time that’s always been a part of me.   It will mean hours off of a commute, which means I get the dinner and bedtime hour with my family back in spades.  The part time means no hours of grading and planning and prepping at home- just the focus on the children; who they are, what they need, and how to help them.

Though I’ve not been writing here, oh, I have been writing.  There are a few projects I am honored to be a part of this coming year- projects filled with beauty and truth where I get to lend my pen and my voice, my research and my gifting.

I’ve learned how to get off the hook gently, carefully, without harm to myself or jerking anyone’s line and keeping myself on the things that bring me life, thusly, bringing life to others.

This coming year is already full of changes, some more to come.  I don’t have the answers to any of them, or the blueprints.  I don’t even have the universal healthcare paperwork filled out for Ellie’s school yet.  Yikes.  What I do know, is that today there is cool air, a pot of coffee and some time.  There is good in today.  Can’t you find it, too?


I knew this one was different.

I’ve seen viruses and fevers before.  Only a few months ago, in fact.  But this one.  This one took over my little one’s body and racked her with cramps and chills; with a forehead and a back burning like fire.  With red eyes and slow responses she barely had the strength to tell me when she was about to vomit.  Again.   I watched her curl into herself, shivering with fever and aching and I knew we had to go.

They were kind, there.  They cleaned her up after she got sick again in the car and talked to her softly so as not to hurt her head.  They let us hold her while they checked her vitals and administered a medication that would stop the retching- the back arching spasms that were painful and tiresome.

We brought her back home and snuggled her close and prayed with a fire of our own to quell the sickness.  If there was something we could have bought- even if it would have brought right back into the debt we are climbing out of- damn if we wouldn’t do it.  There is nothing like sickness in a child to birth their hearts all over again inside of your own.  There is nothing you wouldn’t do to bring them to wellness- to bring them to wholeness- to bring them, well, home.   But you know the fever has to pass and before it does, it often gets worse before it gets better.

She looked up from the couch and whispered, “Make it stop, Mama.”

And part of me swelled with purpose- she thinks I have power to reign in illness. She looks to me for hope. And part of me broke, knowing there was nothing I could do to ease the pain. In order to get to the other side- in order to be whole, to be home- she needed to endure this trial.

And as my heart broke for her, with her, I heard someone else’s heart break.

The one who knows every hair on my head.  Every thought before I think it.  The one who reads the desires on my heart.  The one who holds me fiercely, who loves me beyond anything I could ever hope or dream.

And for just one brief second, I could accept it.  I may never understand it completely- why people have to say goodbye to their babies before them.  Why there are some sicknesses called cancer.  But I felt in that moment that I locked eyes with my own grieving, sick child, the One who is also grieving, locking eyes on the ones He loves. He will stop at nothing to bring comfort, peace.  He is crying, quaking with sadness and is waiting for the worst to pass so that they can be whole- so He could take them home.  He loves like a Father, because He is one.  Mine and Yours.

Rest in that tonight.  I am.


As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve recognized that God enjoys redefining things.

As an English teacher obsessed with the definitions of words and their etymology and multitudinous translations, it drives me nuts.  I like definitions to have the final word.  Not so.

God has been teaching me how my definition of poor is different that His.  My definition of forgiveness, different.  Love, vastly different.  God takes what once was concrete, blows it up like confetti, and lets it fall back down around me to both confuse me and leave me in awe.  Church has not been left unscathed.

As a little girl, Church (big C) meant dresses and lace early Sunday morning. It meant sitting quietly in bony pews sucking on Werther’s Originals while a scary man in the pulpit grew a bulging vein down his forehead.  It meant playing tic-tac-toe with my little sister on the back of the “bulletin” right over the section calling for more prayer meeting attendees.  I’ve been to lots of different churches since then, and something miraculous has been growing beneath those experiences- something beautiful and natural and new. This throbbing, breathing realization.

Church is not Sunday.

I had Church on Saturday this past weekend when a woman we’ve grown to love, a woman we took in to live with us, decided to dedicate her life to Jesus and get baptized.  So, our band of believers dunked her in a pool and threw ribs on the BBQ and giggled and cried and celebrated a new journey, a new decision, a new definition. This was Church.

Church was when we lost our third baby on a Tuesday and our people came from far and near with meals and tissues and games for El.  When they gathered to pray for us in the middle of our living room and held our hearts in their hands so they wouldn’t break apart and fall away.

When I’m pouring Sangria by the bucket full on Friday nights and there are chip crumbs all over my counter and there are people I’m not sure I even know walking in and out of my backyard- people who both love Jesus and can’t even speak his name, people who have been hurt by his people and people who have made Jesus their profession- they all come because they know they are welcome to and there is a chair and a good story for them. This, this is Church.

When I stand in the silence of our backyard with my hand softly in my husband’s and he tells me he wouldn’t want any other life than the one we have together- this is Church.

When someone calls on a Wednesday night to say that their babysitter cancelled, would you watch little Johnny for an hour so she and her husband can talk for the first time in weeks without mashed peas down their fronts and you say YES!- this is Church.

Church is not Sunday.  It’s the ins and outs of the every day.  It’s the walking with your people.  The loving them when it’s hard, the listening to them when you’d rather be the one talking.  It’s the gathering to break bread, the cheering on your friend’s kids at their game.  It’s the grieving with the grieved.  It’s being inconvenienced for others because He first loved us.  It’s the nitty-gritty.  It will take everything you have and give it to those who really need it.  It will be life-giving and definition changing and hard and wonderful.  It will be the way you live your life.

On Sunday, I go to someone’s house.  We sing songs that speak life to my heart and we share what God has been doing in our lives and how we see him moving.  It is beautiful and moving and a great time to celebrate how by the Grace of God, we made it another week.  To pray with each other, to edify one another, to spur one another on.

It’s a great place to rest after I’ve had church all week.


Daniel has been one of my favorite bible characters since I was a teenager.

Originally, it was because of what a rebel I thought he was.  Defying edicts and officials.  Flipping the bird to the man.

More recently, his story has taken on a different meaning.  Particularly, the lion’s den.

Daniel knew the ordinance cast down from his friend, the King.  He knew the consequences for bowing down to any other God for the next 30 days.  And Daniel went to a place full of windows, got on his knees and worshipped anyway.  Much to the king’s distress- as the king really loved Daniel- he was thrown into a den full of lions to become dinner, if not for the grace of God.  The king fasted and prayed all night to Daniel’s God in hope that his friend would emerge from an impossible situation unharmed.  It would be a miracle.  And it was.

Two things have stood out to me about this story this week.  Firstly, Daniel’s death, by all intents and purposes, was imminent.  He was going to die.  He was tossed into an enclosed area with a bunch of hungry predators.  It was imminent and yet- God trumps the imminent.  There are things I am positive are imminent all the time according to my past history or experience, weighed against all the facts I have- but nothing can change the fact that God laughs at what we think is imminent.  Nothing is outside of his hand.  Daniel knew that.  He knew walking in that by all facts and the laws of the earth, he would die.  But Daniel also knew that his God is not confined to the laws of the earth.  That his God made those laws- and can change them.  Daniel trusted that God meant only good to come to him, and so, he slept comfortably with massive beings that should have massacred him, and walked out unscathed.

The second thing is how the king stood watch, all night, fasting and praying.  I know that when I am in something that feels imminent, there is nothing like knowing that people are outside of my cave praying and fasting on my behalf.  I bet Daniel knew his friend was sweating tears and throwing up prayers all night long when his face dwindled in the face of very large teeth.

1.  God trumps what we think is imminent

2.  It is necessary to our survival to gather those who pray outside of our cave.

I want to be as bold as Daniel, as steadfast as King Darius.