Friday, December 16, 2011


I want our children to love books. Some of our favorite days begin with picture books piled high on our bed where little fingers and bright eyes pour over them with delight.

One morning Salome', our six year old, found a lovely old library book in the shelves downstairs, which I had never read. The story, "Lost in the Storm" by Carol Carrick, was tender and eloquent with pictures painted in soft artistic watercolors.

As I closed the book I noticed a stern-looking red stamp, which marred the yellowed front page. DISCARDED it announced. It was a sad proclamation, yet perhaps it was the very reason we were holding the book after all. One single strong word of judgment over something or someone can influence thoughts profoundly.

In my hand I held my camera to capture the tender moment of Salome' reading to Emmaus. As I peered through the lens I understood the profound irony of our two precious children, adopted siblings from across the globe, thoroughly enjoying this book labeled discarded.

The bold, stamped declaration also prompted me to consider, "Are there people outside of my own little life whose stories I discard? Sad, hurting people who need restoring, who need to be noticed, but perhaps I obey a false idea that their life is better left unopened to me. Maybe at first encounter it is easy to see reasons not to pursue relationship. The world often gives us false guidance in this regard.

Yet the Author of Life has written His story throughout the ages on the pages of human hearts. As our stories meld, our dependence on each other, to love, uphold, value and notice, encourages and fulfills us. And we are strengthened in our understanding of the truth: That which is immortal is that which matters.

A few days ago I was amazed to hear the familiar Southern dialect of my sweet exceptional friend calling from Georgia. She is 63, calls me Mama and we had lost contact two years ago. She asked for the usual $50 dollars for Christmas (if I had it and if I did, she wanted it!), plus two devotionals, a book to read, and some coloring books. She asked me to look at the window of my cell phone to make sure I could see her number and she said in her strong voice, "I've got this cell phone with me 24/7 and when I go to the bed, it is beside me and when I leave the bed it is with me. You can call me any time!" She also asked if I'd gotten her letter from 2009. On college ruled paper she had written, "Dear Mama," then every subsequent line read "I love you, I love you, I love you..." and on the backside, the same, with her signature at the end. Each word was carefully crafted in her very best penmanship.

Stories, lives intertwined, all of value, yet those that cause our hearts to soften, and widen our perspective to love, are perhaps the very stories we must seek. None should be discarded.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Daily Adventure

Last week Salome' invited every willing sibling into her space shuttle under the kitchen table for the afternoon's first adventure. "To the moon!" she ordered her faithful make-believe shuttle, which offered ample room, natural pine knots for knobs and no animal or snack restrictions. The smooth take-off only rattled my coffee cup and saucer, which sat proudly on the surface as an appropriate hood ornament. The phrase. "If walls could talk..." would not surprise a child in this house, as every piece of furniture seems to have an imaginative alter ego.

This morning Malachi, in a similar mindset to his sister, propped up a marvelous toy catalogue we'd received yesterday in the mail. He gave each little sibling markers and paper while he guided the creation of tiny paper people to fit into the castle, which stood magnificently over a two page spread. "I'm sure this is too expensive for Christmas Mommy, so we can play with it just as it is in the book!" our nine year old exclaimed happily.

I marvel at the way our children use the resources at hand to experience joy in the moment. Their unfettered imaginations soar boundlessly as I watch from the sidelines, chained to the cold metal bleachers of my practical reality. Freedom lies in one place and I am humbled daily to seek to live it, it is in the childlike faith and trust of the One who is unseen who unlocks the captive soul and fuels the imagination.

Two weeks ago I embarked on my own adventure. For eight years I have sought a place called Safe Pasture. I'd read a passage in scripture, Psalm 37, which inspired me to find a piece of land where Dennis and I could build an expansive house with smaller dwellings around it where many could find refuge. As I stood on a parcel of land which from a distance could have been the very spot I'd envisioned, I felt disheartened. For under my feet the soil was uneven and rocky, while the grass was sparse and dry. As I lifted my gaze, the surrounding fence seemed to speak of trespassing rather than invitation.

The following day, while heading home from the Children's Art Museum, I glanced through my rearview mirror at our five littlest ones happily chattering in the backseat of the car. It suddenly dawned on me that Safe Pasture is not a place at all, it is we. When we pour out God's grace, and are fueled to love and live radically, we are the Safe Pasture. To soar or to rest, the daily adventure is soul to soul, not of flesh. And to dwell is to fully live in the adventure of the moment with those we love. Imagine that!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One potato, Two potato...

Some weeks ago I discovered that the gorgeous bush I had lovingly nurtured in the herb garden was a weed! On the same day I removed a scrawny, overgrown plant from the roses on the other side of the yard. To my delight, uprooting this "weed" revealed three beautiful red potatoes, which appeared to be a thank offering for the tiny plot of earth the potato vine had borrowed, grace to my unintentional neglect. Ezra admired the three cold potatoes. She and the faithful, battered garden frog thought it curious and delightful to find lunch in the rose bed.

Amidst my days of preparing the garden for winter, I worked in the front flower bed where I discarded everything. The plants, which were lovely in their season, had to be removed to make room for stronger plants and spring bulbs which would be hearty enough to face the coming harsher weather. As I stripped the patch down to bare earth, Ezra kicked off her pink, rubber boots and dug her toes into the soft, cleared earth. Delicate brown toes enveloped in fresh dark earth, no blooms will ever compare to such beauty.

I felt lazy when I left the weed in the herb garden. Two days ago I noticed it bore stunning red blossoms which now stand gazing at me in a vase on the table. I accept them as a sweet gift, they remind me that there is purpose in all things in the seasons of our lives.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

5 for 5

Sleepy six-year-old Salome' peeked her face around the hall corner and smiled her tender, toothless smile. I believe she was the sunshine's opening act. She sighed in a motherly way when Zion, who is perpetually hungry, held up the only remaining banana and announced he was saving it for Ezra. Emmaus entered the room frowning and Salome' crossly told him to stop being cross. "Shall we feed him?" I asked, as a seasoned Zoo-Keeper might. Salome' leaped to the task, pausing only to dip her toast into my coffee. With mommy's help, scrambled eggs containing just a hint of shell, appeared on three plates, along with three grapes on the side, for Emmaus.

Ezra quietly slipped into the day while Salome' and I showered. Towels were shared frugally, jeans found, and out of my closet stepped Salome' in black stilettos, dolly in hand and a seldom used purse to freshen her outfit. "Carpe Diem" indeed! "Shall I awaken Malachi?" she asked, in motion to do so. Thankfully, my intervention meant the beloved 9 year old brother, friend and sometimes foe, was spared the wake up call, as his midnight snacking left him in morning hibernation bliss.

This is the "stuff that dreams are made of". I love this joyful, chaotic, and challenging life!
When people ask us, "Was eight children your plan?" and "How did you come to adopt five children?" The truth is I desperately wanted just one more child, after our three biological children, five more would have seemed impossible. But Dennis felt three was enough, so without an "us" decision I was forced to wait. For five long years I researched every possible place from which to adopt. Each time I lay the material before Dennis he said, "Thank you Honey", as he does when I give him driving instruction from the passenger seat. The clock ticked, my thirty-five candles and our youngest child celebrating her fifth birthday, felt like the death of the dream to adopt a child. My time-line was done, I would surrender and quietly stop submitting information to my silent husband.

However, God did not release me! Every time I prayed I couldn't help but ask for a child. Then one day as Dennis led the family prayer, he asked God to be with the baby who was to be ours! In astonishment I asked Dennis if he knew what he had said. He responded, amazed by his own words, "Yes, it must be time!" Nine months later, two day old Malachi Matthew looked into the faces of his new Mommy and Daddy, and this was just the beginning... because five years of prayer, in time, became five children. In God's time and in His way, His gifts are always sweeter than we can imagine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My handsome husband and another good friend sat to my left, the three of us all past recipients of a notable international scholarship for post-graduate studies. The banquet tonight was held in honor of our professor and others who had invested their lives in service. We were to be presented, and in preparation, I pressed my favorite teal sweater against my pink lace top. The names were called and all eyes turned to the smiling men who stood up beside me. My name was not mentioned. I sat quietly smiling while I clapped along with the rest of the crowd. After the program a man approached me to ask my name, wondering if perhaps I’d been someone he knew in college. A person beside me offered clarification to his question, explaining enthusiastically that I was my husband’s wife.

Later that night I gazed at the woman on the other side of the mirror, any remnants of glamor washed down the drain or hung carefully on the hanger where the elegant clothes usually live. The face of that forty-five year old reflection, whose life I live, looked tired and seemed to feel sad and quietly invisible to everyone, even me. The tight space between myself and me left no room for truth, so I slipped into bed without us noticing.

In the dark there was nothing to distract clear thinking, and sleep refused my company. Truth appeared and the Selah, the weighing and measuring of that which has real value, drew my thoughts to a woman I have never met. Her name is Dolores and she works in the hospital.

In heart surgery there are many on whom my husband relies. There is the anesthesiologist, the Physician’s Assistant, the perfusionist, the O.R. nurses and the scrub nurse and tech. The operating room is a flurry of activity where hours of intense operating and life threatening decisions surround one precious human. Eventually the patient may meet and thank many members of the team who worked tirelessly to repair the heart, but few will ever meet Dolores. For when the room is quiet and everyone is gone, Dolores comes to clean. There is little recognition for Dolores, but to Dennis she is significant and he could not operate without her willingness to serve in an excellent, invisible manner.

I am so happy to know Dolores’ name, the basis of which is Latin and means sorrowful or Our Lady of Sorrows in reference to the Virgin Mary. It relates to her willingness to serve even when she knew the sacrifice that was to be required. So when I battle my pride and wonder about my life, it is Dolores to whom I look for encouragement. The crowd, the honors, the image in my mirror, they are nothing compared to the joy of serving the little faces that daily shine at me. Selah.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Beloved (Zion and Birthmother Anna)

Zion likes the word concrete. He says it often, and with gusto! Emmaus is pleased to fuel his brother's widening construction-site vocabulary. Like fresh herbs from the garden added to a simple dish, the brothers transform the most bland sentences into innovative, one-of-a-kind conversations by throwing in their favorite words. To talk of the best things imaginable is to infuse joy into the ordinary.

I also have a favorite word, which has rooted itself into the natural spaces of my thoughts. I freely ask that it influence everything in the same solid manner as concrete. The word is beloved.

I first tasted the power of this word from my girlfriend Tiffany who always refers to her husband Art as Beloved. This bold word insists that of every other characteristic Art might possess, he is first Beloved. Such unabashed, life-speaking language directed my opinion long before I knew anything about the husband Tiffany adores.

My hand reaches only as far as my walking feet can journey. The only lasting shelter and protection we can offer our children is not physical, but rather the character we build in their minds. If the first word of description they hear is Beloved, then all else is filtered by who they know they are. When I call out to them, "Beloved" I am already encouraged to treat them as such. Imagine screaming, "Beloved!" It is almost impossible. With so many highly capable little ones, whose rebellion of heart is as strong as my own, I must protect them and me from anger that produces fruit from an evil source; fear, anxiety, revenge, temper and violence. It is as if I am given a natural pause when the habit of using the word Beloved comes before thought. To conquer the initial reaction to another's sin with kindness is to redirect and infuse love as the conclusion of sin. It is the way of Jesus. I need His way. Throughout scripture we are called His Beloved, so as His Beloved, we are most assuredly Beloved to one another.

You are Beloved, know that you are and perhaps this can be your favorite word as well. Use it generously for it sticks even better than concrete, just ask Zion!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blaze-red Glory

Emmaus, Zion and Ezra raced across the lobby of the high school auditorium, delighted to have space to run. The fanciful lyrics of the Mary Poppins' song, "Just a Spoonful of Sugar", filled my thoughts as I corralled our crew away from the jovial voices of adults emerging from the theatre. My eyes darted from one to another of our five youngest children. Leashes would have been lovely on a day like today, especially since both Magdalene and Elias were in the ballet production.
In a terrible moment, Zion and I both caught sight of the bright red handle of the fire alarm secured to the far wall, at exactly the height of his inquisitive eyes. I sprang towards Zion in movie-like slow motion while our boy slipped through my grasp, reached the wall, then tilted the handle. For 3 sickening seconds nothing happened, then the shriek of the fire alarm enveloped every other sound and intent. Like a bumbling burglar I tried to undo the damage done by flipping the limp handle up to the trigger point. It refused to reengage and fell back in exhaustion, satisfied at fulfilling its heroic duty.

Zion and I threaded through the crowd of 400. As I called, "False Alarm!" to all who would listen, eyes shifted from my flushed face to the furrowed brow of our stunned three year old clinging desperately to my arm. "Please continue to exit the building," I added motioning to the exit signs, feeling like a nervous stewardess who'd prefer to be pushing a beverage cart. The graciousness with which our announcement was received amazed me. Some even patted Zion's head and said, "It's okay little guy," to which I shook my head violently, terrified that this might initiate a new trend in misbehavior!

In no time at all, a magnificent blaze-red fire truck rumbled into the parking lot. Three firefighters alighted onto the curb; two burly men and a lean, blond female. Their energetic presence brought comfort and calm to Zion for he felt he knew them. Emmaus, Zion and Ezra have nicknames for themselves from their favorite UK children's series, "Fireman Sam". Ezra is the blonde character named Penny, while Zion and Emmaus are Sam and Tom, the other beloved heroes. To Zion's delight "Penny" stood before him, then knelt to look into his eyes, while "Sam" and "Tom" stood smiling at him, just a few feet away. "Penny" gave kind, strict reasons why toddlers should not pull fire-alarms. She offered only a gentle smile to the overwhelmed mother who by then had tears streaming down her face!

Almost as quickly as everyone exited, word for re-entry was given. I scooped up the youngest three for necessary departure while Dennis gathered the rest for the second half of the show. As I choked down my emotions, Emmaus and Ezra generously lectured Zion on his naughtiness. He responded in a hushed voice, "But the Fire-fighters will fix it?" When finally home, my nerves got the best of me and I fell sound asleep beside the exhausted threesome. I awakened to a text from my girlfriend Damaris, who owns the ballet studio.

At the conclusion of the production, she had announced to the audience her thankfulness for the trust the parents placed in her and the studio. The second half of the performance was flawless and several joked that a fire-alarm seemed somewhat appropriate for, "Mary Poppins".

During the long ride home, before the nap and the text, I felt the weight of the burden I carried for my child's sin. I thought of all the ugly things I do and think, and yet the Lord loves me (us) so much that not only would He bear my sin, but send in his sinless son to take my consequences. The blatant reality of forgiveness and "clean-slate" moved my soul when later that afternoon I saw flowers on the table brought home by Elias and Magdalene. Damaris had gathered many blooms from her bouquets to create a beautiful offering just for us. Such love and grace carry much weight when we know we do not deserve them.

In these days since "The Alarm", Emmaus, Zion and Ezra notice every single extinguisher, alarm and fire-hydrant, no matter where we are. There is no risk of forgetting this experience! It is yet another picture of grace, jarringly dramatic, but welcome in its blaze-red glory, non-the-less.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


As our three youngest babes prayed with me yesterday, I saw laced fingers and tightly shut eyes and heard a resounding finish of, "Amen" to the God they know is listening. Just days before, Gabriel had written in a letter, " I received my dog tags - it is moving and stirring to see them hanging around my neck as I lean over the bathroom stall...I know it is a morbid thought, but if something ever happened to me, I would like Elias to have them." The reading of Gabe's words felt like a foreshadowing of Friday when one of Gabriel's classmates died in an field training exercise. It was the same day that almost 100 Norwegian youth were murdered. I felt the weight of so much sorrow, and ached for the grieving families of each of those precious teenagers.

In the garden, a picture of hope came to my mind. There is a stunningly beautiful clematis climbing the lamppost. It surprises me each Spring when the courageous vine seeks to survive in a treacherous part of the yard, where little good can be found. Ages ago, when I planted the shoot, I'd hoped for instant beauty. Until last week the scraggly remnant yearly had produced only leaves on a thirsty stem. When the buds finally appeared I did not expect huge, exquisite, deep purple flowers from a living thing that had known such struggle. I looked at those flowers today with new eyes. God kindly has been teaching me to be thankful for the privilege of difficulty and sorrow, and to trust His promise in the end; that He will wipe away every tear, that joy comes in the morning and that good can come from evil. His book of Truth is the Living Water for our thirsty souls.

Gabriel also wrote these thoughts this week, "God is indeed good. He is terribly good...terrible in His goodness, meaning that the force and power behind his shaping would overwhelm us, were we not able to behold the mercy and love that guides those hammer blows, the heat of the forge and the freezing waters. For they fashion me into the weapon, yet give me with that the strength, the wisdom to allow myself to be wielded."

To yield to The Maker and thus, in surrender, be wielded by Him, is to face a world wrought with tragedy as a ready soldier. A soldier of the highest King armed with weapons not of this world, no, the only ones which can defeat evil; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Dog tags are for flesh, but the flesh is merely stem bound to earth. We are created for eternity and it is there we will fully bloom. Hope springs eternal, and to this we can say, "Amen!"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All Aboard!

It is early and a pile of little ones chatter away, as I cling to my few remaining inches of bed. If Ezra joins us I will surely be the first to drop to the floor. It is a peaceful invasion...well, relatively so, but like everything in parenting, complete surrender of all lesser things is the only way.

And so with morning hopes of quiet time to think and write given over to motherhood, I must find a way to celebrate my task. A toast perhaps? Yes, toast in bed and "Bob the Builder: Construction Site" on the small white computer, then I will steal a moment to breathe and speak with my pen.

As I wait for their simple breakfast to warm and crisp, Pax, our chocolate lab, needs a bit of company. So out beyond the herb garden I stand. It is raining again, but the yellow rose beside me doesn't mind, she blooms. This has been a month of tears. How desperately I desire to look to heaven and receive my heartache with thankfulness. To bloom in the rain of my life is what I want, but it is hard.

Our oldest children are walking the steep path to adulthood. Gabriel began the brutal phase of Cadet Basic Training two and a half weeks ago. Elias will soon enter his senior year of high school and anxiously anticipates life beyond. Magdalene's 9 years of home schooling has come to a close as she will begin high school with her brother in the fall. They are seeking their way in a world less kind than the one I might imagine through my rose colored glasses, you know, the ones so easily misplaced. This coaching phase of parenting is perhaps the most difficult. To watch the refining process is to sometimes feel imprisoned by the finality of a job well done...well, at least done, yet covered on all sides by God's grace and filtered through his hands.

Last night Malachi called to his younger siblings, "All Aboard!" He and Salome' arranged the seven stools on their sides, on the floor, as train compartments. The unruly bunch came to order quickly when they realized the conductor was doling out his first round of snacks. Their game reminded me of a quote from Corrie Ten Boom which I have taped to the inside of my pantry, "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."

My white-knuckled fists would hold tightly to our first three children if I did not trust The Conductor. Each of their unique adventures must be laced with struggle, sorrow and suffering. Why this is, I will never know on this side of heaven. Yet it is true, the soul who suffers and refuses to swallow bitterness, will taste the sweet fruit of thankfulness and humility, necessary traits for a spiritually healthy life. Love and truth invested in children in the daily white-flag surrender of parenting will also equip our next generation. We must trust our children to wield the tools we give them well.

As I weep and pray I settle my spirit in these words, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Psalm 126:5. In this I fix my mind and ask my heart to bloom in the rain as I sit tight on this train..."Snacks please!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I am

Here I am, this strange little person, sitting in the corner of the couch. If a star were to gaze down at the earth, I would be too small to be seen. But I see the stars, their magnificent presence grounds me. I feel tiny, I am only this. I am no more, no less, neither grand nor unnecessary. My Father said of His name, "I am". So when I wonder who this person I live as, happens to be; I realize in humble confidence that I am the child of The I am.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Color of God

Malachi spoke brightly from the backseat of the car, "Mommy, do you wonder about the color of God?"
I answered simply, to get myself out of the way, "No, do you?"
"I think God is black," he stated, "He is every color of everyone, all the way to the deepest shade."
I waited and there was quiet, then he began again,
"No, actually, I believe God is medium brown, because when God looks around Him, He sees all the colors, of all His children, and He is in the very center of them."

Perhaps, this is why we are to be like children.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


As I tiptoed into our bedroom last night at the end of the evening's tasks, I came upon a precious sight; Dennis, Malachi and Salome' sound asleep after only a few pages of reading, "My Father's Dragon". With Gabriel in Norway, his room has become a haven for us when little ones overtake our bed. The expansive picture window, where Zion first met the moon, is an inviting space for some thoughtful moments before sleep's insistence will no longer be denied. So I slipped into the vacant room, crawled between the sheets and breathed in deeply the delicious breeze pressing through the open window. Yet, to my my dismay, just beyond the house which separates us from the street, the bright lights of an ambulance and fire engine caught my attention. Silently the vehicles arrived and several rescuers alighted from them. The surrounding darkness shrouded any other details from my view. The shadowy figures disappeared from sight, then departed within 30 minutes. Sadly, I knew neither the savers nor those in need of saving. I can meet our homeless friends on the corner, or chat with the cute gal who sells me shoes, but who are those neighbors just a few houses away, whose evening erupted into possible tragedy as I watched through my open window, a curious eavesdropper.

To be known is a choice of transparency and trust, but to know another is a privilege which requires an invitation. The doors of the neighbors I do not know appear large and foreboding, I have not been brave enough to knock on many of them. To pursue a relationship seems daunting to me, but if I had cared enough to try, I might have known the need, and today I could have given compassion.

A decade ago, our sweet Elias, seven years old at the time, was given an opportunity. We were visiting my special needs girlfriend who lived in a care home. Between us and the door, an elderly woman sat. Her hair was matted in long tendrils around her face and her spindly fingers were marked by dirty, long nails. Her sunken eyes looked hungry for attention, but the stench of urine from her wheelchair seemed to create a barrier to compassion. I smiled at the woman and gave my three children the chance to scoot behind me and out of her reach. Elias, did not walk away, but instead he stood close to her wheelchair and bent his smiling face within inches of her sunken cheeks. Her eyes shone as he reached his arms around her bent shoulders and hugged her. Time stood still for me as I watched in wonder at the love our boy lavished on this precious, needy child of God. Our little boy seemed so brave to me that day, but I think a better, truer statement would be: available to love. The elderly woman needed someone and his tender heart said, "Here I am!"

Life is hard, but less hard when we are available to each other.

And just as I speak this to you, my tired spirit rests in the truth that God, who loves us deeper than we can even begin to imagine, is our ever present source of love, compassion and wholeness.

Good night, Sweet Friend, I will tiptoe somewhere now for sleep, and between the two of us, perhaps these words will encourage our simple ability to be available to someone who needs love tomorrow (or today).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rebels in the House

Yesterday, rebellion almost won. In my house, in my heart and in my head, everything appeared broken. Yet today, as I write this, I smile. It is my intent for you to do so as well. My sweet husband always says, "Time is the great differentiator." And on this side of yesterday, I must agree!

Salome' is learning letters. In a heated moment, she has expressed her newly discovered abilities, "I have two words for you! N! O!" She also stated on one angry morning not long ago, "I am so mad, I want to hit someone, maybe even a mommy or a daddy!" Well, my passionate little Latino beauty says things I'd sometimes like to say!

The dictators of yesterday's mutiny were an unlikely crew, whose presence in my life is usually one of deep devotion and servitude. Yes, I will type this quietly so as not to rouse the computer's possible allied relationship. The culprits were the appliances! The lovely subject of laundry must be addressed first, I know it is generally uninteresting, except in commercials; then you'd be delighted to think of me smiling radiantly, in sleek white jeans surrounded by perfect piles of pristine linens in a laundry room the size of Maine. The boring reality is that yesterday the washer, perhaps in jealous competition with those TV- star appliances, took center stage in its own ballet...spinning and spinning and spinning without ceasing. Meanwhile my perfectly disastrous angels (dirtier then usual for the sake of my mood no doubt!) kept requiring multiple changes. The heaps of dirty clothes mounted beside the obstinate stainless-steel toaster who had given up the ghost last week. Instead of tossing him out, I'd perched him on the side of the laundry room sink, reticent to accept his untimely death. The unplugging of the toaster resembled the shutting down of water supply to the refrigerator, whose leaking tube had damaged the floor. Though this dilemma was several weeks old, yesterday, the crack through the refrigerator's fruit drawer split down the middle and a large, metal bolt appeared from nowhere leaving the door ajar. Lastly, the dishwasher, whose inadequacy had been ignored for far too long, joined the ranks of stubborn stainless-steel subjects and initiated her own strike. Certain that my desperate plea to the "Same Day" appliance service would result in an appointment the following week, I plopped into a chair to steal a moment for a reviving cup of coffee. There was no question of the loyalty of my beloved espresso maker. The first soothing sip was lovely, but that was it! A sad, little, brown lump floated on the surface, no reviving aroma for him. The fat, drowned fly had certainly had a rougher day than me! (Was that steam or snickering coming from my Benedict Arnold coffee maker?)

To my amazement, Mr. D, the appliance repair man, sauntered in at 4 o'clock. He seemed to have all the time in the world, and the confidence of an Old World sheriff. Zion, the resident bull-dog, met him face on with a kindly word, "Go Home!" But the steady professional only smiled broadly. I was glad he had no pocket doggie-treats like the mail carrier, for Zion had already eaten a bit of cat-food that day, to which he'd rubbed his tummy and said, "Yum!"

Mr. D tackled each problem with a steady hand and the wisdom of 36 years of job devotion. "Began when I was 12!" he stated proudly. My unruly dependents submitted to his abilities, and the live little rascals watched with great interest and subdued attitudes.

With everything working, a few replacement parts on order, and a bill I would pay only on job completion, Mr. D tipped his cap and drove off into the sunset.

It is good to be humbled by the mundane things I think I need. And it is a deep joy to be blessed by another's talents.
We need each other and God is good to create us so utterly dependent.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Today I stole away to a secret place-the sunny place, where quiet lives. The sun-soaked bench, tucked out of sight beckons me often, but I am a long lost friend. These moments are sweet reunion with solace, a wise and faithful companion. My days of mothering are vibrant; tugging on every emotion, enveloping my heart, as our children live out-loud. The dance is beautiful and confusing, I confess the two left feet often take the lead. It is then we fall, and to regain our footing requires soft words of repair for which I must dig deeply, from the Source far beyond my inadequacy. The Source is strong against the bombardment of chaos. Here now the solitude welcomes my spirit to pour out the struggle, from weary flesh, and sit and breathe. The gift of God's lavish grace drenches my parched soul as confession and repentance make room for the mending and renewal. God is good, available and waiting. He never sleeps or turns His face. He is in your solitude and in all that threatens to consume, He is the living hope and you are precious in his sight.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heart to Heart

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Tousled brown curls, blue striped pajamas and such a wide yawn, "Good morning little Zion." The last to fall asleep is often our first to greet the day, his cuddles are worth the early hour. As Zion sat contentedly in my lap this morning, we opened the front cover of his new book of Bible stories and this is what I read,

"To Zion,
I love you very much my handsome little man! I'm on a journey to better my life right now.
I chose this gift for you in hopes that one day you will understand how much God loves you through Jesus and
Love always,

A flood of tears washed over my cheeks as Zion's beautiful face, so like Anna's, gazed up at mine. I had not realized the fullness of the inscription in the book from last night. Anna, Zion's precious birth mother, left today to step through a door, which the Lord has opened in her life. Before our last embrace, I asked Anna if I could tell you her story of faith. Her answer was, yes.

In October of 2009, Dennis, Gabriel and Magdalene headed to Ethiopia to bring home Ezra and Emmaus. On the eve of the day they left, Elias, Malachi, Salome', Zion and I attended a "Third Day" concert. Close friends sat behind and beside our family. As the music enveloped us, I felt a tinge of sadness over not inviting Anna to our last minute plans. One and a half year old Zion traveled the length of our row, climbed from chair to chair, and covered his large lollipop with hair - mine, still (partially) stuck to my head! Then, to our astonishment, Zion abruptly stopped fidgeting and sat perfectly still on my hip. As Mac Powell sang from the stage, "There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, love for the broken hearted...", the singer stretched out his hand to the audience. Zion stretched his tiny hand toward the stage in the exact manner and held it for the entire song. We stared in amazement at Zion's quiet, resolute face. I thought of the coming siblings and wondered if he sensed something new from the Lord. Our answer came through a joyful text early Sunday morning.

At about 10 pm Saturday night, while Zion reached out his hand in one corner of the city, Anna walked up the aisle of a church in another. When the pastor spoke of grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, Anna's Aunt looked at her, and Anna knew the words were meant for her. Anna stood on trembling legs, ready to forgive those who she'd never thought deserved forgiveness. The authentic love of Jesus Christ, that bore the sins of humanity to the cross, reached into Anna's broken heart and healed her that night. His grace, mercy, and forgiveness poured into her emptiness and Zion's birth mother was born again. And her boy knew, our boy knew... and I believe the angel's rejoiced!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Master's Hand

Thirteen years ago we met a German couple who sold antiques at a bazaar in Heidelberg. Charming Elias, who was three and a half at the time, initiated our friendship by announcing to Agnes, "My Daddy is deployed. Tomorrow he comes home for one day. It is my Mommy's birthday. Would you like a graham cracker?" Agnes accepted a soggy graham cracker, then reached for a painted shingle from amidst her wares which read, "Gruss Gott" (Go With God). She placed it into my hands and said, "Happy Birthday!" I choked back tears at her kindness, and stepped into the joy of a precious new friendship.

A year later, after countless cups of coffee together, and the purchases of a houseful of lovely antique furniture, we traveled to Agnes' and Manfred's home. Theirs was a transformed farmhouse, drenched in light from expansive windows held in place by huge dark beams and white stucco walls. Lush yellow bouquets of tulips spoke of the bounty of Spring, as did the dining room table, laden with fresh bread, cheese, fruit and bubbly mimosa. Agnes' elegant setting invited Dennis, me and our three children to enjoy hospitality; but the purpose of our visit was Manfred's gift to me. My whole life I had dreamed of painting, this quiet desire lept into words one day while gazing at Manfred's exquisite artwork. You see, as a young man, Manfred painted the ceilings of chapels throughout Europe. His fresh, modern watercolors spoke of a depth and richness whose source one could only discover in time, as this humble
man revealed very little. His work inspired the heart.

So while Agnes and Dennis cared for the children, Manfred and I embarked on a nine hour painting adventure, in the studio, which they had built to resemble a chapel. Manfred's first words to me were these, "In painting one must paint perhaps nine ugly paintings to get to the tenth one that has beauty." Oh the joy of that day! As the sun's rays began to fade, Manfred laid out every painting I'd attempted. Yes, many were ugly indeed, and a few I liked, but there was one I thought was lovely, or at least almost-lovely. The Master stood over the one picture without a hint of judgment on his kind face. "May I?", he asked as he held up a few pastel crayons and a spray bottle. Manfred quickly added a few hard lines and smudges to my painting, then sprayed the paper, drenching it with water. My idea of beauty disappeared into fluid pools of color. I abandoned my fear, trusting the gifted artist to my simple offering of the best of my ability. Thirty minutes later, with fresh coffee and biscotti in our bellies, we entered the beloved studio again. My picture lay before us, completely transformed, and beautiful. Manfred beamed, "Now, you must sign it!" "No," I replied,"It is you who must sign it for us. It was nothing without you."

This painting still hangs in our living room with the signature, "G & M" at the bottom. Yes, Grace and Manfred, but it also represents, Grace and the Master. Daily I am sorted, so many layers of ugly, but that which I surrender to the Lord is transformed and He makes all things beautiful.