Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mother's Day

In 2009 Mother’s Day changed for me. It’s a behemoth of emotions. A beast of thanksgiving, appreciation, guilt and grief.

Thanksgiving because I am a mother. A mother to five unique, thriving, challenging, life-loving children that make me better. For that, I give thanks.

Appreciation for the mother I was givenAn overwhelming realization that I had it so very good. The best of the best gave me my start. For my grandmother and her mother and the legacy passed on through their hearts and hands. For the mother that raised my husband in to a man. I am indebted.

Guilt because I had no choice in it. Chance…fate…call it what you will, but nothing I did or didn’t do gave me the privilege I was born in to. The country, the color of my skin, the education, the family of faith and hard workers…a family of love. Chance.  A sour taste in my mouth that I can give them the life she couldn’t. A confusing mix of questions that wonders why me.  A realization that there is no answer that comes but the responsibility that does. A guilt unnecessary and uncalled for but felt just the same.

Grief. Unhinged, uncontainable grief for a birth mom. A longing for a young mother that the system and this world completely failed. Her family failed her. The Church failed her. A young mom I met on a park bench  that desired to keep her children safe and give them the opportunity for a different, healthy life. A young mom that knew she wasn’t capable of supplying that. A mom that chose life for her children but was unable to trust us after years of getting love and being used confused. My heart fractures  a thousand times over remembering that day . A mourning for what could have been and a life untouched by real agony.  An anguish I see my children struggle with in different ways at different stages. A loss so real and raw and unimaginable that I can never fully heal for them. An unnatural loss. A rip the flesh from your chest and leave a gaping pain type of loss. A hole that seems to heal and close over and with a sound or smell or a moment of happiness can erupt open to expose the wound deep inside.

Mother’s Day. A brutally beautiful day filled with the inexplicable emotions of a life fully lived. A life of big love and big loss and appreciation and grief and redemption. A day of remembering, celebrating, grieving, and praising. A day that has forever changed for me. A day for life moms and mom’s for life. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Some love.


19 years ago 2 kids planned for their marriage instead of their wedding day. They were smart and kind and focused on a life together with Jesus.

And it was good and it was hard.

Job changes, sick parents, children, adoption and more of other people’s children…Resources stretched thin and budgets thinner. Shift work, and sports schedules, surgeries and health scares, dance recitals and tutoring. The business of life competed for their attention. Parenting styles, spender and saver, impulsive and planner, logical thinker and heart responder, open communicator and a blank stare. Freakishly disciplined and bored with routine. Conservative right and progressive moderate. One that’s right and one that isn’t:) Marriage is not for the weak. I don’t know if God puts us with the one that will challenge our weaknesses or he just has a warped sense of humor. We have spent years laughing together and other years clinging to one another when we wanted to run. Marriage has been my greatest blessing and biggest challenge. There have been days I’ve not been able to picture my life without him and days I’ve wondered how we ever made it past the first date. Ours isn’t the fairy tale you often read about. You won’t be seeing us frolicking through the open field on the big screen anytime soon. Ours isn’t the love they write about. Ours is the love they should.

I think we unfairly show a love that few have. A love it’s easy to feel jealous of, truth be told. A love I think people spend a lifetime searching for instead of investing in the one they have. I think some loves start like an intense love and infatuation and when it starts to require work we have been taught in error that love shouldn’t be that hard. Love is hard. Some love requires work. Some love requires sacrifice and compromise. Some love looks different from year to year but is love just the same. Some love goes to counseling and cries late in to the night trying to get back on track. Some love says I blew it again but will keep on trying. Some love grasps hands at the end of the day and asks God to help you make it through another. Some love asks for forgiveness a hundred times over. Some love needs a daily reminder not to keep score. Some love works hard to focus on the good when it’s standing in the middle of stink. Some love isn’t perfect, made for the big screen, flower filled, romantic gesture, warm fuzzy, never disagree, filled with quality time together goodness. Some love just keeps fighting through the stink when the water gets murky. Some love keeps breaking through the mask of the life worn person they see to get to the heart of who they know. Some love knows that this season may be difficult but there is a new season waiting if we just choose to love through this one. Some love is a process. A journey. Some love hasn’t made it to its’ final destination but chooses to stay on the path.  


Learn to appreciate that some love. Learn that if your marriage doesn’t look like the movies this week that if you hang on long enough you’ll find your own amazing love story. Know your love is worthy. Know that at year 25, the stink of year 9 and 10 won’t matter. Know that love is more than passion and fireworks, flowers and fanfare. Some love hunkers down and does the work. Some love says you stunk today but I’m gonna be here tomorrow. Some love wants to flip the other in the forehead one day and kiss it the next. 


19 years ago after dating for 5 years, we stood and we didn’t say I do. We said, I will. I always will. The beauty of our story, of our love, is better than any of the tough stuff. When I look back and see the family we have built, the life we have lived…there is not a single other person I would rather do this with. No one else would have gone for this crazy. When I look back I see a love that is real and deep and lasting. I see a love that reflects God’s presence in our life. Not a love of perfection, not a love free of struggle but a love full of grace and goodness. A love full of redemption and sacrifice. A love of persistence and joy and forgiveness and beauty. A love I am proud of. A love I’d choose a thousand times over. A love I look at and say, now that, that is some love. Some love. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Miss Independent



“I can do it on my own, mom.” From the time she could talk she’s been saying this to me. “By myself,” she would demand. I’ve heard this phrase or some variation of it hundreds of times before but this week, a week before she turns 17, it made my throat tighten and tears sting the corner of my eyes. It was an unexpected reaction.
She began walking when she was 9 months old. She could literally tell me in full sentence that she wanted Blue’s Clues for her first birthday party. She was so independent and freakishly ahead of her time that when her poor brother came along I thought for certain there was something significantly wrong with this chubby boy that just spit up and smiled all day. He wouldn’t speak for 2 ½ years. He didn’t need to. Grace had it under control.
She was the first for my husband and I after losing 3 babies before and the first grandbaby, friend’s baby, niece, first baby on the block, first baby at work, etc. She had more love and affection than any child could ever need. The minute she started walking she didn’t have time for my lap. She had things to do and cuddles were reserved for when she was sleeping or not feeling well. Anything new we discovered she would tell me in a matter of minutes she didn’t need my help. “I do it, momma.” “Grace do it.” “I’m baby Genus.” Yes, you read that right. We had to tell her aunties to quit calling her a genius because she was starting to tell others she was one.
I sat in bed that night after asking if she needed any help with her project for school, and wondered why her answer, “I can do it on my own,” stirred up such a reaction in me.  I want her to need me. I like her needing me. That’s the hard truth. Being her momma has been my greatest purpose for the better part of two decades. In just a few short days she turns 17 and the truth is she can do it on her own. She is a fully capable young lady with her own set of gifts and talents and truths. She is confident and calm. My soon to be 17 year old self didn’t look anything like hers.  I’m not saying she still doesn’t need guidance or that my job here is done but this young lady is ready. It was the same feeling I got a few weeks back when I saw her sing karaoke on Broadway in Nashville and it was this glimpse at who she is becoming that took my breath away. I couldn’t give the feeling words then. She amazes me. She is smart and funny. She has legs like her daddy and the same calm approach to life. She has our family love for all things music and her momma's passion for justice. If she weren't my kid, I'd like her. She's good people. I love being her mom. I love being with her. 
It’s a crazy thing that God asks us to do. Parent this little gift and raise them to not need us. Pour your entire heart and soul in to this little life that will need you every single second of theirs until one day they won’t. And then you have to let them go. Let them do it on their own. Make their own choices, their own mistakes, their own path. Like the toddler that walks around holding on to your fingertips with careful little steps and one day just lets go and keeps right on walking. All. By. Themselves. Sometimes lately it feels like too much to ask of this momma’s heart.  I want to wrap myself around her leg like she used to do to her daddy when she didn’t want him to leave.
A hundred lessons I still need to teach and even more I feel like I didn’t get right the first time flood my mind and the tears fall in the darkness of my room while I hear her softly singing in hers. She is the best thing I’ve ever done. While she doesn’t have it all figured out or the answers for what is to come in the next year and a half, I have total confidence she will do what’s right for her. I fully believe she will find her own path and make it look easy.
Then it comes to me as the sweet sound of her voice fills the night, she needs to know one more thing before this last full year in our home.  This self-sufficient, strong young lady absolutely has the ability to stand on her own but I need her to know more than anything else in this world, she doesn’t have to.  I absolutely need her to know she can do things on her own. She is independent, capable and strong. The thing is, and maybe more importantly, she also needs to know is that real strength comes in knowing you CAN do it alone but being thankful you don’t have too. God designed us to do life with others. Together. And that’s the beauty of it. So although I know she doesn’t need me, and is completely capable, she has a family and community of support here for her.

So my beautiful 17 year old daughter, you are loved more than you can possibly know. Don’t get anxious about choices for the future. You will make the right ones for you. It doesn’t matter what your friends do or what you think others think you should do. Be who God designed you to be.  Sure, stand on your own, you’ve been doing it since you were 9 months old but you have an army of friends and family here to stand with you. Not because you can’t alone, but because you don’t have to. The living of life happens with the people of this life.  And your people love you.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

I've been guest blogging for my church

 https://fourwardwrcc.org/  Find a blog written by me and then you can click on my name at the bottom to see them all.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

White mom talking

This morning residents of 2 different towns in my county and the neighboring one woke up to racist white power propaganda on their front porch, distributed by the KKK. While I trust that sickens most of you, I cannot even start to explain what it feels like to explain to my child whose race is the subject of this hate. I am not a black man, nor am I a black woman. I do not pretend to be an expert on race but my life experience as the only white member of my brown skinned family has given me a unique life experience.  So this is just a white mom talking. A mom with experiences I’d like to share with you in case it helps any of you see things through a different lens. My hope is that this will help those of you that know me, know my family, see what is almost impossible for white families to see without families of color sharing it with you. This isn’t comfortable to share. I don’t want to be accused of making race an issue. It already is. I don’t want to share times that we’ve been humiliated or hurt. They aren’t easy things to talk about. These aren’t excuses either. My hope is that you may see things in a different way or believe my story so that you may also come to believe others. With all of the pain in our country right now, it is so imperative that we attack the root of the cause.  If race has placed this much a part of my daily life as a white woman in one of the wealthiest counties in our state, can you see how much it might play for our black brothers and sisters? Especially those in poor urban areas. Can you for a second imagine living under that microscope and understand where the fatigue and frustration come from? 

I have heard dozens of racist jokes in my lifetime. I have been told some bit of nonsense from an unsuspecting stranger that assumes I share their racist thinking because of our shared whiteness, more times than I care to count. 

I had dated a dozen other guys before I ever dated someone that wasn’t white. Not a single person had ever given me their advice on if I should date those guys or not. Not a single person had ever said they didn’t care if I dated them but they just wouldn’t. Until I dated a black man. I remember dating a biracial guy in college and a relative proclaiming with relief, “oh he’s not that black.” I've heard countless times that my husband isn't really black. He's Jamaican. It's said as if that is better in some way. Huh? 

My husband and I were just dating the first time I remember blatant in your face hate being thrown in our direction. We were sitting in a fast food establishment and the gentlemen sitting next to us loudly proclaimed "YOU MAKE ME SICK" and they couldn’t eat their meal with people like us sitting there. He threw around the N word and glared at us with hate.  I remember that was the first time I was afraid for my safety because of the way we looked. That was in 1993.

The next year we would be refused service at a restaurant. No wait staff ever came to our table. I had no idea why. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and went and let the hostess know we were still waiting. Still no one came. Later that year, I would hear on the news that restaurant would settle a 54 million dollar lawsuit for refusing people service based on race. Everywhere we went people stared. No one ever thought we were together. We were always brought separate bills or the bill was given to me. My parents would not have been legally able to marry if they looked like us. My parents. In our lifetime a black person could not marry a white person. 

After we were married, 30 years after it became legal for interracial couples to do so, we went to a local furniture store for a new mattress. We waited for 20 minutes without being helped. Furniture stores are a bit like car dealerships and you can’t walk two feet without being asked if you need anything.  I watched as no less than 6 employees ignored us. They would look our way now and then. Again, the benefit of the doubt. We laid on the mattress so they would know we were serious about purchasing. We walked to each of the displays and read about them. Another couple came in and they were helped immediately. And then another. And then another. 45 minutes and nothing. Nothing. We honestly sat around that long because I couldn’t believe it was so bold. I calmly asked to speak with the manager. I was told he was at another location up the road. I told them they could call him and let him know I was coming. I walked in and told that manager what had happened. He tried to explain it as an isolated incident and offered me 20% off. I assured him 6 employees with the same behavior was not an isolated incident and they would never even get 80% of my money. This was 1999. Attitudes take longer to change than laws do. 

As time’s gone on, we’ve gotten less stares or maybe we're just used to it now. There are way more couples that look like us. We have had less blatant hate thrown our way. Things are better in many ways. Better is always relative. You don't want your cancer to be better. You want it to be cured. 

We moved from a diverse community to a more homogenous white suburban area for my husband’s job in 2005.  I was told I’m lucky he is black because that’s why he made it through all the layoffs at his company. Told they must have been too afraid to let a black person go. I guess it doesn’t matter that he is the best at what he does and has never missed a day of work. Our children are a definite minority at their schools.  Our family has absolutely been accepted and welcomed beautifully by most. We love our community. While there have been few outright racist hateful interactions, there has been many times of being the spokesperson for all people of color or being the only one in a sea of white. People have always wanted to touch my children’s hair. Most without asking. While I have always taught my children it is just a curiosity and not meant to be offensive, it drives home that feeling of other. I had to laugh when the cheerleading team had to wear their hair in a ponytail with a matching bow and my daughter had only a short natural afro. None of that is overtly racist but I need you to see that race is an issue. I need you to know it is. While many things are not done from a place of hate or exclusion, it doesn’t change the effect it can have on a person of color.

Every book, every poster, every representation of a child they see at their school reflects the faces of someone other than them. Until they learn about slavery and the civil war and watch movies in history class where people are being killed for the color of their skin and they sit there as one of the only others. They sit in class while the movie is watched for it’s historical perspective and not once has any one considered the emotional implications for my child sitting there with brown skin.  So we have tough conversations at home about what that was like for them and they can safely let the tears come. Most kids are uncomfortable learning those things but it's next to impossible not to internalize the pain when it would have been you just years before. 

A teacher, that I trust loves and cares for my child, asked her not to describe another African American child as black. She said it wasn't a nice word. My child is black. It carries no shame. It is not a bad word. I have sat in the pick up line at school behind a truck with white power stickers covering it and wondered what that meant for the safety of my child. I have been told my children are athletic before they’ve ever seen them run. I have been told we have an advantage because coaches will want them on their team because of the color of their skin.  I'm guessing white family's kids make it because of their hard work, skill and passion for the game. All 5 of my children have come home from school and told me that one of their classmate didn’t want to play with them because of the color of their skin. All 5 of my children. This is 2016.

My nephews and my son’s friends all have air soft or fake guns that they play with in their neighborhoods. I will never let my boys participate. It’s not a chance I would ever take. Hoodies make me nervous for my child when my child is just trying to stay warm.

I have a hundred other moments I could share. Some of those are obvious and others I’m left wondering if race was the issue…if it played a role.  That’s the thing with brown skin. It makes a difference enough in this world that you don’t get the privilege of not having to think about it.

While I have seen great strides in racial understanding and acceptance, while I am so very thankful for those that have come before fighting for just that, it does not mean we still don’t have work to do. It does not mean it is over.  I know so many people that say it isn’t an issue. What that tells me is it isn’t an issue for you in your heart. What it also tells me is that you aren't listening. Please know, please believe that it still is for many people. It’s not on your radar because it doesn’t have to be. For us to live in unity, for us to move past the very real pain in our nation right now, we have to first acknowledge the root of this pain. We have to believe the suffering of others when they vulnerably share it with us.

When your life experience has given you a mountain of times your skin made a difference in how you were treated, perceived, spoken about or spoken to, hired or fired, esteemed or trivialized, made to feel less than or other…it needs to be recognized. It needs to be given a voice and heard. It needs to be believed. And we acknowledge it and we grieve with those wronged and we rise up together to work against it. We scour the darkness of our own heart and we bring the bias in to light. We continue to do the hard and the holy so that in 30 years my children and your children can talk about how far we’ve come. So that in 30 years racial unrest will seem as foreign to them as separate drinking fountains seems to us.  

I write this because I want you to see. I need you to see. I can’t convince any one I don’t know. I am not trying to. I’m desperately talking to the you that knows me, knows us. I’m pleading with you to see what the world has been like for us so you can imagine what it might be like for someone else. Try to understand where the fatigue and frustration might come from for people of color. I am asking you to try and hear my heart instead of defend any political position. I am not sharing this with you for sympathy. I am hoping for empathy for people you may not know but might look like my husband, my sons, my daughters. I am hoping for an aha-I-had-no-idea-moment. If even for just one of you. I'm hoping you can see how much a part of society it is that it is impossible for it not to also be a part of our social systems. 

This racial tension and unrest hurt my heart like nothing else. So many people trying to be heard and so many people worrying so much about their rightness that there isn’t any room for loving anybody. We all see color. Please don't say you are colorblind. It’s a descriptor. It’s impossible not to see. See it. No one wants to be unseen. Celebrate it. Revel in our uniqueness and beauty and differences. Being color blind should not be our goal. We need to recognize the beauty in the diversity of humanity. We need to affirm that each culture and color brings it’s own unique set of experiences in to our world and enriches all of our lives. We need to realize that every person is a person all their own and the sins of a few should not mar the integrity of many. We need to praise God for His design and that we are all made in His image. We need to continue the work that has been started and stand united in the worth of one another. Stand together in our humanity.



The issues we have seen in the news lately are a symptom. We are too scared to talk about it. We are too scared of the work to do so we watch as it divides. I can assure you that racial issues are playing apart in the daily life of almost every person of color in our country and it feels deeply personal. It is impossible for recent events not to feel personal to even me. Ask any police officer or their spouse. They will tell you how personal it feels. This violence has to stop. Let’s not be afraid. Let’s be bold in love and unity. Let’s stop dismissing the feelings of so many because of our fear of what that means for all of us. Let’s trust the intentions of others. Let’s address the heart issue we have in our country, in our own community, in our selves. Let’s have hard conversations, acknowledge injustice and ask forgiveness. Let’s say to the black community, we hear you! We believe you and we had no idea. We will teach our children differently. We will speak up when we hear hate. We will identify the dark corners of our own hearts. We will build relationships with others in an effort to work on our own biases. Let’s move toward one another in the spirit of Jesus and call on His power to heal our hearts. Let's do the work; together, in our hearts, in our communities. In Unity, in His name. 


Friday, April 29, 2016

The hard and the holy.

It happened. They said it would. Not from him. I thought I was prepared so the sting took my breath away. From behind the closed door, “This family is stupid. I wish I was never adopted.” Do I open the door and say that I’ve heard? Walk away? The anger seems too big to carry alone. Too big for a 10 year old boy.

I walk in and ask him to look at my eyes. I ask if he would like to share those thoughts with me now? “No.” I ask why he said it . As his eyes meet mine, “Because I’m angry.” I tell him I understand that but we don’t speak hatred out of anger. I tell him I’m glad he is using his words but there are different ones to use. Ones that won’t hurt people like his hurt me as a tear gives way. I tell him I am trying to help him learn healthy ways to deal with his anger and give him some paper and tell him to write his feelings down if he needs to and I turn and walk out.

It is said calmly. It is said with love and concern and understanding. It is said with bravery. I didn’t want to have that conversation but I did. Because I can do hard things and so can he. I get to teach him that. And with God’s help, we can do it with love.

It had been a hard day. Behavior issues I thought we were past reared their ugly head. He had lost a privilege for two days. I was ruining his life. Your average tween things except for this isn’t average. He is an average boy that has been through a not so average life. I’m an average mom trying to love extra ordinary. Life calls us to hard sometimes.

I realize that part of our day could have very easily triggered things in him and wonder if he is just having a hard time verbalizing them. I feel a hand slip around my waist, “Mommy, I’m sorry for my behavior today,” and he squeezes me with every ounce of himself. This is the boy I know. This is the boy I’ve watched him grow in to right in front of me.

I hold this little man boy’s face in my hands and thank him for his apology and accept it. I let the tears from my face land on his because I want this sweet boy to know that I take loving him very seriously. I want him to know this mother son thing is hard and it hurts and it heals and we will always figure it out together. I squeeze back even tighter so that message is felt deep in his bones. That is bravery. To ask forgiveness is brave. This sweet boy walked in to my life at the age of 3 and opened up his heart to me. He let me love him when I’m sure there was nothing scarier. He loved me back. He loved new siblings, a new dad, new aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents.  He forgives us when we fail him and he shares his feelings with us when it’s hard to. He let joy in to his life and some days needs to remind himself over and over again that he’s deserving of it.  This boy so many define by his adoption, his grief, his loss. This boy that is so much more than that. This boy has taught me courage. 

This kid. My son. What a beautiful gift it is to be his mom. Hard and exhausting, maddening and emotional…a privilege and a joy…. In the midst of this ugly I wanted to scream and cry and feel sorry for myself. With that little arm and that soft low voice asking forgiveness, I was reminded, God, that you see me. You are ever present, God With Us. In the ugly and the wonderful, in the hard and the holy. In it all, You are working. If we let you, You will write this story and it may be difficult but oh, will it be beautiful. Thank you, God, for it all. May it shape us both in to who you’d have us be.  



**Are you in the hard or the holy? God is in both. Trust that.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Painting toes and praising Jesus

Some times you don't make it to church on Sunday. Some times grief sneaks up on your child and comes seeping down her face. Some times you put everyone else in the car and you sit that little girl down and you talk to her about the hard things. You hold her face and you look in her eyes and you tell her how sorry you are that she has to do such hard things. You tell her how valued and worthy she is. You talk about the grief and her biological momma and your chest will ache from the pain she carries. Your tears fall with hers and your shirt will cling to your shoulder where her tears and snot have settled. You talk to her about the good and you carefully and honestly discuss the not so good and you paint a picture of a life before you, a life she no longer remembers. You show her the picture, the one of her first mom and her beautiful smile. You point out the similarities and the ends of her sweet mouth turn up at the sight and the blank look in her eyes of not recognizing her mom's face catches in your throat in a mass of the things missed. And you don't even try to wipe the tears anymore. Hers or yours. You just simply say, when things get hard, I will never leave you. When you are sad, I will be here with you in it and we will talk it through. While you miss and love your first momma, it doesn't push your forever momma away. There is enough room here for that love and longing. It's okay here. I am so sorry you are hurting. You tell her it is completely understandable and normal that she feels like this and that there are other sons and daughters all over the world feeling just like she does right now. You tell her she is not alone. You tell here that sometimes it makes you angry and that's okay if she ever feels that too. You tell her about Jesus and His love for her. You tell her He was adopted. You tell her your love for her is unconditional.  You tell her that love often looks like service and sacrifice. You sit her on the couch and you grab her little feet and you wash them and you put lotion on them and you paint those little toes and you have church right there while you do it. Church right there with the little brown feet and the snot and the tears.

You serve her with the best of you. You sing praise songs and the tears slow and she will look at you with that sweet look that shows you just how important you are to her. And your heart...your heart can barely take it. This sweet girl struggling to share her grief with you and not hurt your feelings at the same time. This sweet girl in this sacred time trying to balance all of that. You hug her with a fierceness that says we are in this together. You show her your love for her in the simple task of painting her toes. You feel God's presence there...in this space...in your family room surrounded by a dozen little bottles of bright spring nail polish and tear stained faces because church is wherever we bring it.