I took the boys with me, a Mama and son date. Tia spent the weekend having her girly tank filled with her cousins. They did hair and played dolls and giggled and laughed. And so it was that I was alone with the boys for three days and errands were an unwanted necessity.

The kid’s school requires uniforms so I’ve been on a quest for the cheapest shirts possible however, the color shirt they’re required to wear is not very common, which lead us to the uniform shop in a rougher part of town to pick up several shirts specific to their school.

We rolled to a stop after exiting the highway and Sloan saw him first. He was standing back from the road a bit, his thin slice of carboard offering a two word plea.



Had I been alone, shamefully, I would have ignored him. I would have stared straight ahead so as not to make eye contact and avoid the awkward. I would have said no to the least of these.

But I wasn’t alone. I was in the car with a nine year old who is determined to change the world – a nine year old who just might do that someday if I don’t mess him up.

“Mom, give him some money! He needs help!” He said this as he rooted for loose change and reached for my purse. But I didn’t have any money. I never have cash on me. Cash means Starbucks to me so I rarely carry it to avoid the temptation.

“I don’t have money, babe,” I said, regret lacing my words.

“Yes you do,” he cried, holding up a handful of coins triumphantly. One quarter, one dime, one nickel and one penny. Every coin represented.

“Honey, that’s not really much money. It won’t help him. You can’t do anything with .41¢.”

“Well, he can save it, then, until he gets a little more,” Sloan replied and really, how could I say no? My child was asking me to do good. Like I said, here’s to hoping I don’t mess him up…

I rolled down the window and motioned the man near. He walked with a limp to the car window. “I’m sorry it’s not more,” I said, my face flushing a bit. Why was I embarrassed? Why do I still feel like I must do something big for it to hold any lasting impact? “It’s all we had and we wanted to help.”

The man took the four coins with dusty hands and his eyes filled with tears. “Ma’am,” he said as he separated the penny from the rest of the group and held it up in the sunlight. “If you had just given me this one penny, it would have been enough but you chose to give more. I can’t tell you what this means to me.”

I smiled and blinked back my own tears. The stoplight was soon to change, I knew this, so I turned quickly and pointed to my freckle-faced boy. “It was his big heart who wanted you to know that we see you and we love you and we will be praying for you.”

Sloan leaned forward so he could see out the window and the man looked at him deep. “You’re a good young man,” he said. “Listen to your Mama and stay in school, you hear me? And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough, because you are.”

Sloan nodded and then spoke, his words filled with a grace beyond his years. “Thank you, sir,” he said. “I will be praying for you every day.”

The light turned green and we moved forward. The man stepped back from the road and as we made our left turn, I looked back to see his face buried in his hands, his shoulders heaving. In his clutched fist, he held tight to .41¢.

We pulled into the uniform store a few minutes later and Sloan looked at me with heavy eyes. “We should do more for him,” he said and I nodded. I felt it, too. “Like, can we buy him a house or something?” he asked. Just like his Mama, he thinks big.

I smiled and ruffled his thick hair. “We can’t buy him a house, but we could buy him a meal,” I said and he smiled. So that’s exactly what we did. After picking up shirts for the next school year, we swung through a local restaurant and ordered a meal and a bottle of water then rushed back around to the spot where we first met him.

He was gone.

Sloan’s face fell as he clutched the bag of fries and burgers. “Where did he go?” he asked, his face scanning left and right. “Oh I see him!” Landon screeched from the back seat, excited to be a part of this moment with his brother. Our friend sat under a bridge with another man. He was smoking and speaking animatedly.

“How are we going to get to him, Mom?” Sloan asked and just then the man stood up and started walking back toward our corner. We didn’t have long. I grabbed the food, jumped out of the car and waved at him, setting the food on the curb then rushing back to the car. He hurried over, his face registering shock.

“I was just telling my friend Peter about how much you blessed me and now this?” He looked genuinely surprised. The light turned green and I pulled forward. “God Bless you!” he called as we rounded the corner and he disappeared. A few minutes later, as we merged on the highway, Sloan spoke up again. “Will we see him again, Mom?” he asked.

“Probably not,” I said.

“Can I pray for him now?” Sloan asked and I nodded my head yes. And with eyes swimming, I drove us home while my nine year old demonstrated a faith that moves mountains. The faith of a child.

Did you know that .41¢ could change the world?

Yeah, I didn’t realize it either…

The Need to be Known

We sat in a circle, the porch lit up by a string of lights and the air around filled with youthful squeals and the unabashed laughter of little ones filled with delight. For three hours we sat and when we finally rose, my cheeks ached from the smile stretched wide.

It felt good to be known.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this move has been the feeling of having to put on airs. When you walk into a room full of strangers, the natural reaction is to put on a smile and those people aren’t going to know if my smile is fake or not because they don’t know me. It’s not their fault. It just takes time to get to know someone.

But this golden lit circle of people was not a group of strangers. They were family. My aunt and uncle and cousins. The people we vacationed with growing up. We’ve watched one another get married, rejoiced in babies born, mourned in loss.

There is just something comforting and familiar about family. Though I haven’t lived in the same state as my cousins since we were all in diapers, we still hold fast to the bond of family that seals us together. We know each other. We’ve traveled roads together that no one can understand. We experienced heartache and joy that binds us tight and holds us fast.

On the 21st anniversary of one of the deepest hurts our family experienced, we gathered. We didn’t plan the gathering on this specific day – it just happened. And we laughed and loved and relished in one another. Many were missing, and how I wished they all could have been there, but for Lee and I the meeting was perfect. We needed to laugh. We needed family.

Sitting with them late into the night, Lee and I didn’t have to pretend and my family didn’t expect a mediocre answer. When they asked how we were doing, we told them. This is hard. Moving is stressful in a lot of ways and the last six months have been the most trying of our entire married life.

It was cathartic to share – to be able to open up and be honest. The rest of the evening was spent laughing…hard.

Our kids ran around, screaming and shrieking, delighting in one another the way my cousins and I did when we were little. It was so good and so sweet to be known. Like walking through a fountain after traveling the desert. Refreshing and cool, Lee and I came home rejoicing.

And tonight, as two teams I didn’t care about played for a title that meant nothing to me (I just broke some hearts…I’m sorry), we talked and laughed with friends. New friends who, over the last few weeks, have allowed us to open our hearts and share and laugh and cry, and old friends who not only know us from back home, but who also know well the path we’re on right now.

They’re on it too.

I have asthma and on the days when breathing in is just a little more difficult, I always relish in that one moment when I’m finally able to fill my lungs fully. My head spins a little and the panic that has begun to well up dissolves as I can finally take a much needed deep breath and I can actually feel the oxygen circulating through my body.

This weekend was a deep breath. It was needed and we drew it in deep.

My head is still spinning a little.

The Grace to Shut Up


I have camped out on this very word for the year 2012. It is my theme and the anthem of my heart. When I feel frustrated. Grace. When worried. Grace. When annoyed or angry.


It is good that I landed on this word as we head into a contentious political season. Already I have had the opportunity to dwell in Grace. Spending ample amounts of time online can lead to high blood pressure for those of us who tend to veer toward hot headedness.  My first inclination is generally not to remain quiet, but instead to add my voice to the fray.

But I am learning to dwell in Grace.

Do you know how many Facebook statuses I’ve written and erased this week?

It’s interesting, when you’re learning to embrace Grace, how much more difficult it feels to give it. I find myself so quick to judge. When I see posts that upset me, the nasty little voice in my head scoffs all hoity toity-like, “Don’t they understand Grace?”

And then that smaller voice counters, “Do you understand it?

It’s at this point that I make my fingers be still so my heart can get quiet. It’s amazing how quiet and stillness can actually snuff out the nasty, isn’t it?

Just because I’m learning Grace doesn’t mean everyone is learning it. Just because I’m trying to practice Grace by being quiet doesn’t mean everyone should be quiet. Indeed, I’ve seen numerous posts and comments that oozed Grace in a way that I’m not always skilled at conveying.

I needed the Grace to shut up so that I could learn Grace by watching others.

It’s hard not to get bothered by ramblings online. There are so many voices in this world wide web. So many opinions to be shared, observations to be made, accusations to be flung and promises to be spoken. And weaving through it all, if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to become lost in the negativity.

“But you’re just being real,” the nasty little voice yells. “You have to let people know who you are and where you stand or you won’t ever be heard.”

Hmmm…I don’t agree little voice. Be gone!

There is something to be said about being Graceful, even above being kind. I’m trying to lean toward Grace instead of kindness. Because even kindness can lend itself to an air of condemnation. If someone doesn’t feel the same way I do about an issue, I can kindly assert our differences, but there’s no guarantee that that person won’t feel hurt or judged by my words.

It’s a balance, this thing called Grace. The balance comes in knowing when to speak up and when to be still. When to speak wisdom and when to simply sit. Thankfully I have seen a LOT of people do this well in the online world and I am trying to learn for them. To learn, though, I need to be quiet for awhile.

Grace doesn’t always shine through me and in the past, I’ve been part of the noise problem. I’ve spoken with brash confidence and haughty self-love. I’ve assumed that my opinions were so worthy and noble that naturally everyone would want to hear them and should indeed agree with all I said.

That’s not to say I don’t think people should have a voice. I do. And I think you should exercise your right to voice your opinion. In fact, in the last month as I’ve learned to just be still and quiet a marvelous thing has happened. I’ve learned to appreciate, if not agree with, differing opinions.


Suddenly, my own opinion isn’t the only one that matters. And I’ve been able to more clearly think through what I feel, think and believe about an issue.

This is nothing short of miraculous, folks!

So I’m learning. I will likely fail here and there and I can’t promise I’ll always keep my mouth shut my fingers still, but if I can continue to sit quietly long enough to calm my heart, I just may learn what it means to dwell in, and live with, Grace.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll someday be able to speak Grace.

Scenes from a Homecoming

We had the unique privilege last night to watch lives being forever changed when my cousin and her husband arrived home from Ethiopia with the two little boys they adopted.  It was a party as a throng of people cheered, welcoming the boys into the family.

A picture of grace.


Cousins excited and waiting to meet the boys.


All the cousins who were able to make it to the airport. We've got quite a crew when everyone is together.

Me with three of my cousins. Have I ever mentioned I have the greatest family on the planet? And that's my joker kid's fingers making bunny ears...


The excited welcoming committee

They're here and they are shocked and a bit overwhelmed by the response.

The new mom getting a hug from her mom. *tears*

Total bewilderment

A thrilled grandmother.


Two little boys whose lives will never be the same.


A family united.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

Galatians 4:4-5



I was twelve years old.  I woke up early and got myself dressed for school.  I even remember what I was wearing.  A white T-Shirt underneath flower printed cloth overalls.


I scrunched my permed hair and lathered it with gel because God knows I didn’t want those spirals to frizz out midday.  I put on my white Keds and I walked downstairs for breakfast.  It was early and the house was still.  The frigid winter air made the hair on my arms stand tall as I bounded into the kitchen.

Mom was standing at the kitchen sink staring out the window.  I knew something was wrong.  The air felt like sorrow.

“What’s wrong?” I asked quietly.  Mom turned to me, her eyes and nose red.  I walked over to her.

“I got a call last night,” she said with a trembly voice.  “Aunt Joy is in the hospital.  They don’t think she will live.”  And with that my mom broke down.  I will never forget that moment.  My mom’s head on my shoulder.  For the first time she needed me.

I went to school with a heavy heart that day and a sense of dread.  When I got off the bus I saw Dad’s car in the driveway.  At that moment I knew, but I didn’t want it to be true.  Dad was waiting for me in the kitchen and when I walked in the door he engulfed me in a tight embrace.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked.

“She is on a plane to South Carolina,” Dad said softly.  He stroked my hair.

“How is Aunt Joy?”  I can still feel the sense of loss when I think of that moment.

Dad paused.  “She passed away,” he said.

It was February 4, 1991.  Twenty years ago.  It is a moment that defined and shaped my young life.  It’s the moment when death became real and life became precious.  It was a time when I realized that nothing is guaranteed.  Someone can go in for a routine procedure and end up gone…sometimes without explanation.

The days that followed are some of the happiest and most sorrowful of my life.  I am blessed with an extended family that has a depth of love, grace and heritage that is hard to match.  For an entire week I was surrounded by the people who love me most and for whom I feel the deepest love.  Because I was still so young, the time together with my cousins is filled with fun memories.  Again, I believe that is God’s grace in protecting my still developing heart.

The reason, however, for our gathering was deeply sorrowful.  There are moments of that week that are burned deeply in my memory and, quite honestly, they’re too painful to record on such a public forum.  Partly because they are tucked away in places that are just mine and partly because many of them involve the pain I witnessed in others and the stories aren’t really mine to share.  They are moments that I wish I could forget.  One of the blessings of being a writer is the ability to recall in detail emotions and settings. 

It’s also a curse…

As tough as some of those moments are to think about, they are also moments that God used to show me what grace is.  My Aunt Joy’s death was not a momentary blip but was the catalyst for how God would mold and shape me as I grew.  And now, as an adult, I can still look at that day twenty years ago and see God’s grace in my life.  Aunt Joy’s death set into motion a whole host of trials to be overcome and brought about joy and triumph that wouldn’t have been seen otherwise.

Her death affected all of us.  It shaped and defined our entire family, all in different ways.  Some, like her three children, were affected much more deeply.  Others, like her siblings, still feel the sting of her death.  But all of us can look back on that time and say God is good and He was there.

Today I remember.