To us, they really will always be kids…

It’s all Olympics all the time around here. I’m exhausted. If we could get a medal for dedication to watching and cheering on, I feel I deserve at least a bronze. I went to bed at ten last night after looking up the results online because I was just too tired to spend another night watching TV so that knocks me down a bit in the medal stand.

The Olympics are emotional. No matter who wins or loses, I find myself in tears almost every single time. Every race, every match, every event is the culmination of dreams come true for some and dashed dreams for others. We are watching lives unfold before our very eyes, and it is exhausting.

P & G’s Thank you, Mom series of commercials isn’t helping. This particular commercial turns me into a blubbery mess every single time.

The other one that messes with me is this one, because it’s true. No matter how old, or how big, or how great they become, to us Mama’s they’re frozen in time, the little ones who begged for nighttime hugs and kisses, one more drink, a few more snuggles and can I please sit on your lap, Mommy?

Their giggles are frozen in time, the freckles that dot their noses imprinted in our memories until the day we close our eyes for the final time. As much as I love to watch the athletes succeed, I love to watch their parents even more. With each twist and turn, each stroke made, each stride, the mothers and fathers who walked this road alongside them move. You can see the tension in their faces, the relief in their eyes when it’s all said and done.

Most of us parents won’t be sitting in those sidelines. Most of us won’t welcome home an Olympian or a Super Bowl Champ or a World Series MVP. Most of us will allow those dreams to foster in our kids knowing that it’s probably not really in their futures and we’ll be okay with it.

But we will all watch our children grow and learn and succeed and fail in different areas – maybe on a world stage, maybe in an office cubicle, maybe in a classroom or a mission field or a boardroom or as parents raising their own children. We will watch them grow and develop and become who they were meant to be.

And we will love them fiercely and deeply and proudly.

Some of us will be disappointed by the decisions our children make. We will sit back and watch them struggle and we will ache and cry and pray and long to see them crawl out of the pit that they have dug for themselves.

And we will love them fiercely and deeply and proudly.

As we drove home from Sloan’s football practice the other night, he shared with us some of his fears. He is not an aggressive child making football an odd choice for him. He’s built for the game and is talented enough, but his heart is so tender and competition is not really in his genetic make up.

But he wanted to play, so we signed him up.

“I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone,” he said. “And, I’m afraid I won’t do a good job and you will be disappointed.”

“Son, let me tell you something,” Lee said, turning the rearview mirror so he could look into the eyes of his first born. The one he loves fiercely and deeply and proudly. “You can make every single play, throw the ball perfectly and win the top championship in the world, and I will be so proud of you and I will love you,” he said and Sloan nodded.

“And you can miss every pass, fumble every ball, miss every tackle and trip over your own two feet the entire game, losing every game you play and I will be so proud of you and I will love you.” Sloan nodded again.

“There is nothing you can do on or off that football field that will change the fact that I am proud of you and I love you. Because you are my son and that’s all that matters to me.”

To us, they will always be kids. They will fail and they will succeed. They will hurt and mess up and get angry and they will still be our children.

I don’t need a gold medal or a championship ring or a World Series pennant to be a proud and emotional Mama.  

Are you watching the Olympics? Are you as tired as I am?

Til Death

His bent frame curved low over the chair in which he sat. His head was bald, but a photograph in the corner told me he once sported quite a mop of dark hair. His face bore a perpetual smile and his hands trembled mildly as he passed me a black and white photograph of a young woman dressed all in white.

“We were married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she passed away,” he said and he offered a wide smile. “She was the prettiest girl I ever laid eyes on.”

I was in a Waco nursing home on an afternoon service project. On my left hand, the engagement ring sparkled and shined and I wore it with such pride that some days I wondered if my heart would burst. As I sat and spoke with Abe, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the picture of his wife, who had passed away only months earlier.

“Tell me about her,” I said. When he spoke of his wife, his face split in two and his eyes sparkled. Love has a way of preserving youth, doesn’t it? I could see the young man Abe had once been when his eyes danced in the memories.

“She had a lot of spunk,” I remember him saying. “Did you know we were married for 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she died?” I nodded.

“That’s wonderful,” I told him. “I am getting married in just a few months.”

Leaning forward he looked deep in my eyes. “You enjoy it,” he said very seriously. I nodded and he leaned back, satisfied and content. He was, quite possilby, the most joyful man I have ever had the honor of speaking with. “Did you know,” he asked me again, “that we were married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before my wife passed away?”

I wish I could remember all that Abe told me that day. He shared at length stories of his life with his beloved wife. Stories of the war, of raising children, of traveling and of growing old. And every other sentence was peppered with the fact that they had been married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she died.

When I walked out of that nursing home, I rushed to Lee’s house and told him all about Abe. “That’s what I want for us,” I said, lacing my fingers through his. “I want to be married for 60 years, 4 months and 22 days…plus some!” And that became our mantra. I even had it engraved inside his wedding band, which he lost a year ago. Some day I’ll replace it.

On our wedding day, Lee and I recited vows that we had written ourselves. In the vows we included the line, “I will never divorce you.”

Later, someone made the comment that she thought we were irresponsible for using those words. “How do you know what will happen in the future? How can you say you’ll never divorce someone?”

My first inclination was to react defensively. What do you think ‘Til death do us part’ means? Our vow was not meant to be a holier than thou approach to the institution of marriage. Rather, it was the acknowledgement that  marriage is hard and we were in for the fight.

Yesterday we marked twelve years since vowing to spend the next 60 years, 4 months, 22 days plus with one another. I can honestly say it’s been the best twelve years I could have ever imagined. Not the easiest, but the best. Our path hasn’t been smoother than anyone else’s. We’ve had to fight for one another, but it’s been more joy than fight and for that I’m so desperately grateful.

We have been through unemployment, the frustration and discouragement of wanting to be pregnant and not being able to get pregnant, the fear of nearly losing a child, two big moves, a house renovation (oy), the death of loved ones, loss of hair, thickening of waists and the list could go on and on. There have been times when I did not like him much and other times when I was not all that likeable. We are no different from any other couple on the planet.

But in the midst of it all there has been joy so deep that sometimes it takes my breath away. Lee makes me laugh harder than anyone else on this planet and there is no one on this Earth I would rather spend a day with than him. Marriage hasn’t been easy, to be sure.

But it hasn’t been that hard either.

I know how blessed we are. I have seen marriages fall apart and I know that sometimes divorce is the only option. I used to not think that. I used to believe that one should stick it out no matter what, but I know better now. I’ve seen people who were abused in their marriages, emotionally and physically. I’ve seen friends fight tooth and nail for their marriage only to realize that it would be healthier for everyone to just walk away. There is a lot of healing that can take place when someone leaves an unhealthy marriage. Sometimes walking away is necessary and I will never stand in judegement of a failed marriage.

I don’t proclaim immunity to difficulty in our marriage. We are falliable human beings, Lee and I, entirely susceptible to temptation and selfishness and capable of breaking the vows we uttered a dozen years ago. But deep in my heart, I know that there is no one better suited for me than the man I stood before as a fresh faced, naive twenty-two year old.

And with that in mind, I will continue the fight and will keep carving a path toward forever by his side. I will fail, he will fail, but together I believe the two of us are in for quite a journey. One thing I know without a doubt, we’re going to have a good time along the way.

We’ve got 48 years, 4 months and 22 days plus some to keep figuring this thing out.

Image by Avodah

Edited to add this link to my current favorite song. I love me some Ingrid Michaelson. Listen to it. Download it. Love it. Amen.

Love, Marriage and the Stranger at the Bar

I got married about five minutes after finishing college. I felt so grown up and mature but really, I was a babe. I’m okay with this fact. I don’t regret the decision to marry young, nor do I regret starting a family shortly thereafter.

Mostly because this means I’ll still be young enough to kick up my heels and party when we get these kids shipped off to college.

And also because, you know, I love my kids and stuff…

Marrying so young means that I never experienced the dating scene. I met, fell in love with and married my husband in the span of about eighteen months. Before him I dated a few boys, but nothing serious. I don’t remember much, but I don’t think I would have been classified as a huge flirt in my younger years.

There was that unfortunate incident when I was seventeen on a yearbook trip to Kansas City when I took a boy up to my hotel room. I had impressed him with my Ace Venture impersonation. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen in the hotel room.

What did I think was going to happen?!

We sat on seperate beds and I jabbered nervously until my teacher knocked on the adjoining door. I shoved him under the bed and flung the door open totally trying to act natural all the while looking extremely guilty (because I was guilty…). She asked who was talking and I was all, “Oh that? Haha…um that was the…TV! I was watching TV. Becaaaaauuuuuse I have…a…headache! And I, um, wanted to get away from everything for a bit. But…you know…I’m just gonna head back down to the party so…”

Oddly enough I’m not sure she bought my story, but she was cool enough to raise her eyebrow, nod her head and say, “Yes. Why don’t you go back to the party. Now.”

Me and the boy without a name (what was his name?!) fled quickly and I never did anything like that again.

Impersonating Ace Ventura was a risky little game to play in the mid-ninties. But it was the only trick I had in my bag and it worked like a charm every time. Like I said, I wasn’t much of a flirt.

Last night I somehow managed to convince my husband to take me to a movie. He hates movies, but he loves me so he agreed. We saw The Lucky One. The movie was lame, but Zac Efron is pretty so I consider it time well spent. Afterward, we went to a restaurant to have a drink.

Sitting on the ouside couches, Lee and I enjoyed people watching. Apparently Thursday night is when ladies come out to this particular bar to meet men. This is something I never experienced so I always find it fascinating to watch people engage in this social dance.

“Do men really saunter up to women at a bar and flirt?” I asked Lee. “I thought that only happened in the movies!” My husband responded by laughing at me.

“I guarantee if I left you sitting alone at the bar for thirty minutes, someone would come up and hit on you,” he said. To which I responded with a laugh and utter disbelief. “Not tonight, of course,” he said quickly. “You’re not dressed right.”

I was wearing a skort and keds. A SKORT! It’s pretty cute, actually. But it screams stay-at-home mom. I didn’t know we were going to a fancy restaurant for drinks!

But really? I had no idea that happened in real life. I absolutely thought that only happened on the big screen. Naive? Maybe a little. Not that I care. Looking around I didn’t see one man that I’d want to come hit on me. Other than, of course, the handsome man sitting by my side.

I sometimes wonder if I missed a lot by marrying so young. There were definately things I could have experienced had I stayed single longer. But I don’t think I would have made a very good single because I didn’t see one single woman at that bar impersonating Ace Ventura. Not one!

I don’t think I would be good at playing the bar game…

Dare to take a second chance


Dirty tricks.

Evil Hatchet Man.


Every one of these words was once used to describe the character of Chuck Colson, a Nixon Presidential aide who became one of the first to go to prison after the Watergate scandal broke and President Nixon was forced out of office. Back when the political game was won using cheap shots and dirty plays (I know, I’m talking about it as if it’s in the past…), Chuck Colson led the pack in the use of shrewd tactics.

But then, something happened.

Yes, he got caught and for many years people dismissed the change in him as nothing more than one more trick. But it wasn’t true. Nearly four decades of relentless and tireless work for prisoners revealed that Chuck Colson had truly been changed from the inside out.

Chuck Colson knew prisoners because he had lived with them. He had been one. What does a man who experiences literal chains do when he is released back to freedom?

“I could never, ever have left prison and accomplished what has been accomplished but for God doing it through me,” Chuck once said. In 1993 he is quoted as saying, “I shudder to think of what I’d been if I had not gone to prison. Lying on the rotten floor of a cell, you know it’s not prosperity or pleasure that’s important, but the maturing of the soul.”

Thank God for second chances.  And third. And fourth.

Our past does not have to define who we are today. Redemption is sweet and offered to all. For 36 years, Chuck Colson faithfully carried out the simple command of loving “the least of these.” His ministry, Prison Fellowship Ministry, fought relentlessly for prisoners who, just like himself, needed someone to give them a second chance. He developed work-release programs, marriage seminars, training for prisoners to help mainstream them back into society when they got out.

Chuck Colson was a champion for the outcast of society and in so doing, he changed the course of how prisons are run and prisoners are treated, not just here in America, but around the world as well.

Why do we complicate the message of Christ? Why do we water it down, twist and contort it into to something that is in no way recognizable or appealing to others?


That’s all it is. Love people and love them well. Love them not because you have to, but because you want to. Love them when they are unlovable. Loving people doesn’t have to be so scary, but sometimes it will be hard. Love anyway. The poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden and, yes, the ones who have brought harm – they need love.

Sometimes love has to be a choice – not a feeling. As our pastor said yesterday, “Sometimes you have to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.” Sometimes love is hard. But to give yourself over to loving the unlovable?

That’s character.

My husband spent a year under Chuck Colson’s leadership as part of his Centurian’s Program. Colson changed my husband. He helped shape him into the man and thinker that he is today. I am indebted to Chuck Colson for the way that he developed my husband into a leader who is quick to listen and slow to speak.

Chuck Colson was a man with a second chance and he didn’t waste a minute in using that second chance to change lives. What will you do with your second chance?

“We grieve that our brother, our founder, our inspiration is no longer with us. But we rejoice that Chuck is with Jesus, we rejoice as we reflect on his life and legacy and that we could be a part of that, and we rejoice when we think of all the redeemed in heaven who will greet him and thank him for the role he played in their salvation.” Jim Liske, Chief Executive Prison Fellowship Ministries





Set Free.

These are just a few of the words used to describe Chuck Colson in the days following his passing .  Second Chances…

Here is a great article on Chuck Colson.

Image Credit

Forever Crush

“Mom, did you have a crush on someone when you were eight like me?” he asked, his deep blue eyes searching my face as we drove down the road. This question came on the heels of our visit to the store where we gazed at the heart shaped boxes of chocolates and talked about when it’s appropriate to give someone a love card.

“I did,” I answered. “I liked a little boy named Brandon when I was in elementary school.”

“Well, is it okay to have a little crush?” he asked. If I could bottle the innocence that hung between us, I would fill up a thousand jars.

“Sure, it’s okay to have a little crush,” I answered. “But it’s better to just stay friends. You don’t need a girlfriend for a very, very long time.”

He nodded then grinned, the bliss of puppy love washing over his face. I know who he is thinking about. I saw her chasing him on the field while they played capture the flag.

“When did you start to have a boyfriend?” he asked slyly.

“Well, I dated a couple of boys in high school, but it was never too serious. There’s no reason to get serious when you’re young.”

“And then you had crushes in college, too?”

“Yep,” I answered. “I had a couple of crushes and one boyfriend in college before I met your Daddy.”

He was 25. I was 21. *sigh*

“And then HE was your crush, right?” Tia yelled from the backseat.

“He sure was,” I answered, smiling at her big, round eyes through the rear view mirror. “And you know what?” I asked in a hushed voice.

“WHAT?!” three little voices shouted back.

“He’s still my crush today.”

“You mean you’ve never had another crush?” Sloan asked.

“Nope,” I answered. “Your Daddy is my only crush and my only boyfriend forever and ever.”

“And your only husband,” Landon piped from his seat.

“Yep. That, too.”

Always and Forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The eyes to see

Like a petal dancing on the wind, the theme of Grace has been floating across the internet this past year.  Everywhere you look, people are seeing it, feeling it and living it.


Grace is not a movement.  Grace has simply always been.  Grace hasn’t changed or altered or moved. Grace has been dancing for us for all of eternity – we just haven’t always seen it.  But it isn’t fair for me to speak of you, for perhaps you have seen it.  Perhaps only I have missed it.


In the past two months, our life has changed drastically.  The known has been replaced with the unknown and the comforts of predictability have been stripped away.  Filled with fear and doubt, we’ve moved forward with faltering steps, our eyes truly open for the first time.


It’s always been there, just waiting for me to see it.  A sunrise over the dark waters, bursting forth the light of day.  Grace. A palm tree swaying and bending in the stormy winds, a sign of water coming to renew the ground.  Grace. A bird singing, a lizard racing and the pealed laughter of children with eyes wide to Grace.  All these things were here.

And I can finally see.

Ann’s book opened my eyes.  Her blog moves my heart.  And I looked, not only in nature, but at man – God’s most glorious creation.  Grace.

I sat on the plane last week, my head and my ears tight.  The cabin pressure left me with a headache and I could never quite get my ears cleared.  As we descended, the man across the aisle leaned over.  “Would you like a piece of gum?” he asked, a kind and understanding smile on his face.  I accepted gratefully.


Standing up to deplane, I watched the man in front of me help an elderly woman with her bag.  He pulled it down and as she reached for it, he shook his head.  “I’ll get it off the plane for you, ma’am,” he said.


Life is full of Grace…when you’re watching for it.  And in the looking, another miracle takes place.  Life slows down. As a mother, this is the greatest miracle of all.  Because the passing of time takes with it the sweetness of youth.  Newborn cries turn into toddler giggles turn into the lengthening of limbs and deepening sounds of a growing man’s voice.  And it all happens in a blink.

But when you’re looking for Grace, the moments last a little longer.  The sticky arms flung around your neck hold on tighter.  The giggles ring a little louder.  The wet kisses are a little sweeter.  Life is grander.


How are you seeing Grace these days?

And Then We Wept

An iron will combined with pure determination make her beauty a little tougher to penetrate.  Life ebbs and flows under her watchful eye and she pours forth emotion only when unaware that anyone is watching.  Fierce love and sheer delight dance in her eyes, though, and it’s here that her tough exterior shows weakness.  The best kind of weakness.


Her white blonde strands dance in the wind and her baby blues swim with concern.  Her brother has just been punctured by a catfish – his first fishing wound.  As blood seeps and he cries, she makes her move unaware of my observance.  She slips an arm around his shoulder and squeezes tight.  Concern.  Fear.  Pain.

She feels it all.

She feels my watchful eye and turns to look at me. I nod, showing as little emotion as I can and for a moment, I see her compassion falter. But a maturity is setting in – one that hasn’t been there before. She is five and a half now. She reminds us every day.

What I see is more than an age, though. It’s God. It’s a given nature settling in, begging to be watered and fed. She is seeking and questioning. Who is God? What is Grace? What did Jesus do for me? She asks and I answer. Then we wait.

“I want to know Jesus,” she says from the backseat. “But I’m not ready yet.” And that is okay. We will let her wait and question and seek, because the time is coming when faith will call and she will make it hers. But it will be in the time that feels right to her. She would have it no other way.

I would have it no other way.

He would have it no other way.

Her younger brother cries. In a fit of laughter he took the corner too fast and head met wall with force. He wails and I look down. Her hand on his ankle and tears in her eyes. She looks entirely surprised by this reaction. Empathy has never been her first reaction. But lately…she’s changing.

“I don’t know why I’m cwying,” she says, her eyes bright.


I say the word to her. Over and over we discuss it. Compassion. I tell her every day now. “You are compassionate. You care. And that’s a good thing.” She needs to know. Because by nature, her independence prefers distance. She likes control and predictability. But compassion…it is unpredictable. You don’t know when it will strike and the tears will flow. Compassion requires surrender.

Late in the evening as a storm meanders off in the distance and the clouds paint the sky in a Master Tapestry of shape and color, she and I walk hand in hand. “Do you want to call her?” I ask. She has been talking about her friend Noelle for several days. I hear the ache in her voice. The tender age of five has not tempered her longing for companionship. She misses her friend.

“No,” she says and shakes her head hard. This is her sign. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t want to process. The tough exterior is up. We return to the condo and I watch her move.

“Tia. Why don’t you want to call Noelle?” I ask, when the bustling movement of masculinity dashes to another room and we two are left alone. She looks at the floor, then at me. Again her eyes are full and bright and sad. She shrugs. She won’t talk because the emotion threatens and wavers and her first reaction is to fight for control.

“Are you afraid that hearing her voice will make you sad?” I ask. And she crumbles. We lay on the bed and weep together. Me for her…and for myself. I miss them too. The friends and loved ones. I miss them. And so does she. She’s only five, but also…she is five.

We spend some time talking about our friends. We remember all the fun we had with them and we rejoice in the blessing of dear, sweet friendships. Then we pray. She clutches to my chest, her hot tears dripping off her nose and together we plead for new friendships to fill the void. For me.

For her.

And one more time before the lights go out we discuss compassion. I stroke her silky soft hair and tell her again. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to love. She possesses all of these emotions in full but letting them out is the trick. It’s the magic.

It’s what makes her so unique and wonderful.


“Mom.”  Hot breath on my cheek stirs me from the deepest of sleep.  “I have a stomach ache.  Can I sleep with you?”

I mumble something incoherent that he and I both interpret as a yes and he burrows under the covers.  His hair smells clean, freshly washed just before bed.  I’m poised to drift back to dreamland, but for a conscious moment, I relish him close.

He sucks in a deep breath.  It’s sharp.  Pain.

“Are you okay?” I ask, more awake now.  He clutches his side and pants.  It’s probably an air bubble, but in my sleepy haze I immediately assume appendicitis and I push on the lower right side of his abdomen.  “Does that hurt?”

“Ow!  Yes, that hurts!”


In the next moment, he is wrapped around me.  Knees and elbows swathed in a narrow frame.  His nose is in my neck, his arm flung across my waist.  He’s hot and I’m immediately uncomfortable.  I’m so tired and my first thought is to push him off on his father who is snoring on the other side of the bed.

But then I stop.  His breathing slows and falls into a quiet rhythm.  In, out.  In, out.

It’s just as it was back when he used to fit a little more snuggly in my arms.  Back when I couldn’t wear his flip flops and his hands weren’t nearly as big as mine.  Back when his hair was a white blonde fuzz on top of his round head.  And instead of pushing him away, my arms engulf him and squeeze tight.

Because I miss back then.  I miss it.

But for a few short hours, I got to relive those moments.  I didn’t sleep much…or at all.  Somehow, though, sleep didn’t matter, just as it didn’t matter back then.  Because the moments fade so fast.  When morning light pierced through the darkness, he finally stirred and unwound his spindly body.  He looked up at me, all blue eyes and freckles.  And eight years passed me by in an instant.

“Hey Mom,” he said with a sleepy grin.  “Can I have some Nutella for my birthday breakfast?”  And as he dashed off to conquer the day, I remained behind.  Tired and teary.  Grateful for a night of little sleep and thankful for those brief, still moments when he snuggled close and held tight.  Those moments will soon be no more.

Happy Birthday, Sloan.