Redemptive Snapshots

Sometimes God gives a reminder of just how big he is and it makes my eyes leak.

26 years ago last month, our second oldest daughter was born in Mexicali, Mexico a month before I turned 12.

Today, her 13 year old little sister in serving in that same town, along with her father and about 60 others from our church family.

I saw this picture, along with a few others and I was deeply moved as God whispered to me again of his unmatched big-ness in it all.

-How he wove us together through all the broken and labeled us forever family at ages that still make me laugh.

-How that then poor 10-month-old, drug exposed, failure-to-thrive baby girl, arrived a week before her big sisters–making her first but not oldest.

-How I was told no and never to becoming mom to all three of them.

-How now that baby with all the labels is 13 and wanting to help change the world–her beginning absolutely unable to trap her in chains of forever.

-How she is wanting to love and serve those in Mexico in the name of Jesus, even as her heart aches with love for her two older sisters.


There is redemptive beauty in this scene, a beauty beyond my ability to completely see or understand, but I see it spilling out like light around the edges.  God’s power, his ability to redeem, his goodness, how he weaves together a story–it takes my breath away. He is the master storyteller.

Sometimes we are tempted to want to pull a string that we don’t particularly like and remove it from the tapestry of our life– but it would change the whole masterpiece.  We are the masterpiece and God has got us– in all the beautiful and broken details. One day we will be able to see it all clearly, until then, I am thankful for the amazing, redemptive snapshots.


To the Parent-Who-Just-Can’t-Today

To the Parent-Who-Just-Can’t-Today,

To the new mommy who is trying to figure out breast-feeding, is still rockin’ those awesome post-partum mesh undies, and cries at all the things, I see you. To the weary parent of littles who can’t use the bathroom without interruption, who hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since before parenthood began, and who feels their biggest accomplishment today might just be the shower they squeezed in during naptime, I see you. To the parent who faces the child entering the land of hormones, where their mouths can be as big as their mood swings, and are tempted to ask the doctor to medicate one of you so that you’ll both survive, I see you.  And to the parent who is saying goodbye as their adult-but-will-always-be-their-baby heads out into the world, who is flooded with all the feelings, who wrestles with wondering if their precious will be ok and if their parenting was good-enough, I see you. To those parents who feel like they just can’t today, and secretly wonder if they are failing at this parenthood gig, this is for you.

Just breathe– right now, right where you are. Just take a deep breath.  This is life in the middle of the beautiful and hard, the stretch-you, teach-you, touch-all-your-buttons-and-remind-you-that-you-need-Jesus messy middle. Just breathe.  You are not alone.  I am there along with all the others who do the work of showing up for this parenthood gig.

One question: What has captured your focus, the mess or the Maker?

That was the question that whispered over and over in my mind as I observed a newborn baby and her daddy this week.  The baby girl in his arms perfectly surrendered to his care, staring wide eyed up at his face, tiny fingers wrapping and unwrapping around his finger; perfectly held.  The love of the father pouring over his precious child was evident in every detail. The look, the attention, the hold, the provision–he had her and she knew it. Stunning.


The mess was my focus. The strength was my own. The peace was gone along with my patience, replaced by fear and doubt while everything pulled for my attention and drained my emotions. Sometimes the busyness in the hard is the enemy of our focus and the thief of our peace.  Sound familiar?

The moment I decide to, I can be in the presence of my Father, eyes firmly fixed on Him while he lovingly tucks me in and holds me in the middle of the messiness.

Let this sink in a moment:  The God who heals the sick, who raises the dead, who gives sight to the blind, who touches lepers, who loves on outcasts, who walks into all the pain and all the hard of all the people who call on Him, who remains steadfast in every season, and can do all things is the God who says, “Come to me.”  Why would we not go to the one who CAN when we know darn well we CANNOT? He has us, but do we know it?

So, dear ones, I encourage you to keep your focus fast on Him and not on the mess.  Let your body relax as you lean in and he wraps you in his amazing peace. Let him quiet your heart, equip you with the strength you need today, and listen to His neverending wisdom.  He will hold you in His perfect love even when the storms rage…and that changes everything.


The Why (The Day I Attempted Suicide, Part 2)

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

IF I were dying, THEN they would realize how much they love me–this was a fantasy I would play out in my mind often as I tried to fall asleep at night. My mind was a safe place where I would try to sort out all the feelings that were far bigger than I was at the time.  At four, one does one’s best to wrestle with complex issues, and this was part of my feeble attempt. It was the year I was first sexually violated and lost my innocence. Throw that into a whirlpool of flourishing familial dysfunction, and I would begin to understand pain and rejection for the very first time. Sometimes our greatest traumas come from what isn’t given.

Survive–we are hard coded to survive until it is pecked away by the brokenness. Surviving is not the same as thriving… So much can be robbed from us in moments, leaving behind decaying parts that long for redemption to breath new life.

17. He spent at least a year grooming me, testing to see just how broken I really was, before he attacked me. After so many sexual assaults through the years, THIS ONE had to be my fault, right? I should have known better. I should have been wiser.  And yet, wasn’t this story familiar somehow– the one that seemed to speak of my worthlessness again and again? I had even met Jesus, so how could these things happen still? I was tired of surviving. After I managed to get away, I sat mostly naked and sobbing on my bedroom floor.  I studied the pill bottle on my vanity. Gone were my childhood fantasies, left were rotting wounds. How could I go on? What was the point? So much pain. That first thought was nothing but a whisper…just take the pills

The seed had been planted before I was old enough to add, watered with every trauma life brought, and fertilized by my ignorance.  Suicide...maybe it was the only way the pain would ever stop. It became the new fantasy, a false promise that maybe it was the only way to end my pain after all.  So, with every incredibly dark and painful season this thought would echo through my mind like a sweet promise of freedom…

Lies are always powerful, but the truth holds greater power still.  I had yet to learn that lesson, though.

The day I attempted suicide, the birth control pills had pulled the proverbial trigger, but the gun had long ago been loaded.  Take away the synthetic hormones and my mood would indeed regulate, but it would not teach me what I desperately needed to learn. The trigger was always there, tempting me to just pull…

…when the infertility news arrived.

…when my twin daughters died.

…when I faced rejection more profound than I had ever dreamed possible before…

..the thought came like a drink of water that promised to extinguish my fire. No more pain.

What was wrong with me?  Who thinks these thoughts? Clearly only crazy people! The shame that enveloped me held my tongue until I was bone weary of the plague it had become.

The perspiration beaded on my brow and soaked through my shirt as I finally blurted out my secret to my therapist.

I struggle with thoughts of suicide, and I don’t understand what is wrong with me!” I cried.

The flood gates opened, the tears I had cried behind closed doors for years spilled forth, climaxing into an ugly, snotty sob of confession.

Amazingly, she NEVER said what I was so terrified was true–that I was indeed crazy.  (In fact, I asked her repeatedly just to be sure.) Instead, her words would shatter my shame, breathe life into my desert, and pave the way to greater freedom than I had ever previously known.  I would finally understand the why, I would begin to see the truth and slowly she would teach me to understand just what I could do.

Freedom. Finally.


The Day I Attempted Suicide

21, married only 4 months to the man of my dreams, and desperate to make the pain end.  Death. My death was the only possible solution. The darkness was so profound it felt like a weight on my chest.  How did I get here? Who could I tell? I was certain that if anyone knew how broken I truly was all they would do was judge me and reject me.  I would be left alone and ashamed. Oh, the shame, the deafening, debilitating shame that engulfed me was choking the life out of me in my silence.  No one could ever understand…

I can still remember watching the pills fall into my hand.  How many would it take to actually end my life? I didn’t know.  I could feel my heart thump loudly in my chest, my pulse racing steadily as my husband beat on the bathroom door begging me to stop, completely lost on what to do.  He didn’t understand, no one understood, I could not go on with this pain any longer. When the world glanced my way, assuming I should have been my happiest, my darkness was growing more profound every day.

The pills called to me, making me promises of peace–I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.  I could be done.

God, will you forgive me?  Will you forgive me for being too broken to fix?  The shame. The doubt. The darkness. I found myself pouring the bottle of pills out into my hand.  The coldness of the bathroom tub I sat on matching the coldness I felt inside. One gulp, some pills sticking in my mouth in protest, more water.  Another gulp, this one slipping down with ease. The door crashing in, my husband–tear streaks staining his cheeks, phone in hand– ripped the bottle from my hands with the power of all the love he felt.  His eyes, showing a devastation that I could not bare, made me stare at my empty hands. He truly did not understand, and really neither did I. And so I stared at my hands, tears coming from a depth I didn’t before know was possible.  What had I just done? Everyone will know now. The shame will be unbearable. Jesus, forgive me and take me home

The sirens.  The lights. The humiliation of being seen in this moment.  How many pills did she take? Exact number unknown. I hear my husbands words as I was strapped to the gurney, “Most of the bottle.”  So many words float through the air as I am swallowed up in my shame and darkness. How did she get here?everyone, including me, is asking the same question.

Alone.  I remember feeling the irony of being strapped to the cold hospital bed–unable to see anyone as per hospital rules (others presenting a possible danger and all)–choking down the liquid charcoal concoction that was working to bind up my death and reject it from my flesh.  I was alone…ironic really. The one human I was certain loved me, that it was even possible to see in a moment, was my husband, and he was refused admittance to me for an undefined amount of time. Alone.

Is this what I wanted?  No. I wanted my pain to end.  I just could not find any other way to make the pain stop.  Suicide is one last tired, desperate cry to end a life crushing battle. When I could not see, when I did not understand, when I felt all alone, I remained silent.  Shame was my great silencer.

My husband, sitting in the waiting room, was brave enough to ask for help.  Two friends, men he barely knew at that time, sat with him in the waiting room. They offered no judgement, no answers– just warm hugs, tears, presence and prayer.  This was love. This was entering someone else’s hard and saying you are not alone. Profound and powerful.

Me? “If only I had known then what I knew now,” isn’t that the saying?  Yet, it is only in the going through that we learn, no skipping past to the last chapter even though we often wish we could.  Thankfully, my story didn’t end that night. The question everyone wants to know when a person attempts or succeeds in committing suicide is why?  And those why’s are as varied as are the personas behind them. I have learned that sometimes it is a brain chemistry issue, for others a lack of healthy coping tools in the hard or through the traumas, and for others still it is complicated by addictions–sometimes it is all of the above.  For me, in this instance, starting on birth control pills 6 months prior was changing my hormonal balance so significantly that I was rapidly falling into a profound depression. My new chemistry mixed with a lack of healthy coping tools led to my choice that day, but really that is over simplifying it… (to be continued)


Jiggly Bits, Inflated Udders, and a Bathing Suit

There are some choices that you realize were not your brightest only when reflecting back. This was one of mine.

Post-partum was such a wardrobe challenged time, at least for me, as my belly was stuck somewhere between marshmallow and deflated balloon.  On one hand you are delighted in your precious child, while on the other hand you are daily trying to vacuum slurp your abdominal jigglies into all the clothes while they beg you for mercy.

Jesus provides mercy; clothes do not.

So, here I sat, unwilling to go shopping for new clothes while my old ones most certainly did not fit, but desperately needing to go for a swim. No problem, I will just wear my maternity swimsuit! I could sequester and hide all the bits with ease! Problem solved.

At this point in the story, if you were watching this unfold on the big screen, I am certain the music would change–a foreboding tune to prepare you for the disaster ahead.

Everything was fine outside of the water, you know, where gravity puts everything down.  The problems began once I got INTO the water. At first, I realized that my newly inflated udders were going to make swimming more difficult simply because they were incredibly effective flotation devices.  I mean, I didn’t even have to put forth effort, and I could float with ease, the udders leading the way. It was like trying to swim with buoys strapped to my chest.  No problem, I just tried to shove them to the sides and hope my armpits would help harness them in a bit. “Divide and separate” failed me.  Nope.  One over-zealous set of flotation udders to the rescue! Whatever. I would just swim or float until my alone time was done. It was nighttime, and only a couple of people were in the pool anyway.

Enter a party of 3 skinny college kids, who clearly knew NOTHING of wobbly bits, jumping into the lap lanes on either side.


I adjusted my goggles and pushed off from the wall, prepared to glide effortlessly through the water…when I realized that my wobbly bits had wobbled right out of my swim bottoms with a force akin to biscuit dough breaking free from its vacuumed captivity.  This was not happening…

Oh well, it was dark! Wait. The pool was lit. Awesome.. Trying to sink unsuccessfully below the water (see flotation udders mentioned above), I tried to pull up my bottoms while not drowning myself in the process. I flailed and rolled and popped my head up occasionally for air.  The more I struggled to harness my wobbly bits the more my udders threatened to tear free from my somewhat loose, v-necked maternity swim top.  I managed to push, shove, and trap everything back into submission again.

This worked until the next stroke, when my jiggly bits begged release once again and declared their freedom as my bathing suit bottoms rolled down, helped by the friction of the water as it glided innocently by.  It was at this point that I created a new stroke entirely, I’ll call it the super-uddered-flotation-wiggle-stroke. Just 10 slurps back into my bathing suit britches later, and a handful of udder re-entrapments and I was out of the pool.

I clearly rocked my mommy time (all 5 minutes of it) and the faces of the college kids sitting on the edge of the pool proved it.


A Lesson From My 9 Year Old

I had been running all day and had just realized that I had zero plans for dinner.  Once again all my good intentions of planning everything out had dissolved along with my give-a-crap button.  Cereal? Nah, it just didn’t sound like it would work for dinner, not long term, the girls would be hungry again in an hour.  So, on day 5 of solo parenting, in the heat, with a mouth still on fire from having surgery on my tongue, I loaded up kids and headed to the grocery store.

As we pulled into the Raley’s parking lot we saw him.  A skinny, middle-aged man, deeply tanned with a medium length white beard, holding up his sign that read, “Just hungry and ugly.”  I sighed and did my best to avoid eye contact. I didn’t have the time or energy to help, plus he was probably just scamming. I wasn’t ignorant on how things could work.

Just buy him some food.  It is hot, he is saying he is hungry, you can, so you should.  But I really don’t feel like it at all right now and there was always someone in need…

“Hey mom, did you see that guy?  Did you read his sign?” asked my 9 year old in the backseat.

“Yes baby.”

“Mom, did you see his eyes?  They look sad. You say to always look at the eyes.”

I had purposefully not looked at his eyes actually…

Just buy him some food

“Baby, will you help me pick out some food to buy him?”

With incredible excitement and a sparkle in her eyes, she sat up straight and said, “Really mom?  Can I hand it to him? Can I be the one to give it to him after we get it?”

He is filthy, she is a child, the germs, the what if’s, all the reasons that immediately flew into my head to be solid reasons to say “NO! Baby I will do this.”

What are you teaching her?

Mic drop.

What was I teaching her?  Was I being wise or just afraid?  Why was I even thinking the thoughts I was?  But more importantly, was I teaching her to love others like Jesus did and does?

But Jesus knows about boundaries!  

Wait, DID Jesus have boundaries?  If he did, would they have really walked through this filter I have in my head that screams of preserving and protecting at all costs, always, especially regarding my children!


What am I teaching my children?  To be bold and brave or just afraid?  To be generous and kind or guarded and cold?  

Maybe my children are teaching me. Oh Lord, forgive me.  I have so much to learn.

We quickly walked through the grocery store and bought a modest bag full of imperishable items for the stranger begging outside.  All the while, I was explaining to my daughter why we were buying certain things (thinking about his possible needs and the heat), and not just throwing in cartons of ice cream.

Can it ever be a waste to give food?  Really?

I don’t know his story, but I do know I can buy some food.  Does it matter if he is scamming somehow? Nope. Because in that moment I realized that there was so much more happening than just buying food for him and hopefully helping meet his need.  Our sight was changing, my children were learning, and I was learning most of all. Because if someone has to beg, regardless of their intentions, then they are indeed in need. Full stop.

So, with an excitement that left all her limbs jittery, my girlie carefully placed the items into the bag, buckled her belt and sat beaming with readiness to hand over the groceries to the man.

Am I ever this excited to serve another?  Such expectancy. No fear. Just wonder.

After a bit of searching, we found him leaving the parking lot on his bike, seemingly empty handed.  I pulled up, rolled down the windows and looked into his eyes for the first time. Need. My beautiful, brown skinned baby looked the middle aged white man right in the eyes as she smiled and said, “We got you some food.”  Her eyes…love.

As we drove away, I took a deep breath, and looked back at my girl who represented Jesus– to both the beggar and me– as she sat beaming.

“Mom!  That was awesome (her limbs all jittery with excitement again), it is just so amazing to get to help another, right?”

Yes baby.  Thanks for teaching mama today…


Love Wins


I don’t remember the first person who told me about God.  I was invited to many churches and heard many things during the first 12 years of my life.  I didn’t doubt there was a God because I knew there was evil. For some, that is a stumbling block–the problem of evil–for me, it was proof.  If there was evil, but not ALL was evil then there MUST be the opposite and that opposite was God. He was just an idea until junior high; an idea that I wrestled with often.

My first memory of evil was when I was 4.  He was 15 years old and promised it would be “fun” but that I would get into big trouble if I told.  I would ride to school with that evil for years. There were so many moments of evil in that first decade of my life that I could never doubt its existence.  It crossed gender lines and age limits; it knew no bounds.

But God?  What about him?

If you had come to me and told me I was going to hell, I would have laughed and told you I was already there.  If you would have tried to explain to me that I was a sinner, I would have shaken my head and asked you to tell me something I didn’t already know.

When you live in the darkness you need not be reminded of its presence….you need to know that there is light.

Love.  Just as I was, right where I was, I needed love to wrap around me and promise to walk with me as it changed me.  And it DID change me…one bit at a time.

That is the Jesus I know–he meets you where you are, as you are, and calls you to himself.  People can represent him imperfectly, but they will never replace him. And so, my 7th grade year, several circled ‘round me -for a time- to represent him, his love.  Their love was beyond my understanding. Yet, I was SO hungry for it.

Love won me.

True love always wins, in the end–not the love offered by the world, that is temporary and conditional– but true love.  Love that gets down in the gutter where you live and raises you up, and then holds on, without end– THAT is the good news. That he loves us, and took it all upon himself to save us and he never, ever let’s go.

What are you known for?

The truth and love are not enemies, you don’t have to trade one for another, in my experience they go hand in hand.  After-all, wasn’t that what Jesus modeled?