I’m Sorry

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Tonight I found out that another mother lost her child. I felt everything inside me scream “No!”. The general travesty of losing a child was particularly eclipsed for me by the sense that I felt somehow responsible for this boy; responsible for his fate. From his birth I had a sense about him despite having few personal ties to his life. It made the news real. Inside I raged at the wrongness.

And then I wept.

I lost my neice over a decade ago. We learned a lot about grief as a family when that happened. Like; it comes in waves and the “why” is never good enough. We learned that there can be beauty in how we grieve. We learned to throw eggs at trees. I also learned something else…

Never tell a grieving parent “I’m sorry”.

I’ve tried hard to stick to this rule understanding that wounds go deep. Platitudes are salt to open wounds. But tonight, sitting in my van, sobbing and imagining his mother’s beautiful face all I could think was how very sorry I am. How woefully, deeply, piercingly sorry I feel for the whole thing.

This is going to walk the line of giving grieving people unasked for advice (another thing that I don’t recommend). Really, it’s meant more as an encouragement, because the truth is that if you are grieving you are going to hear “I’m sorry”. You are going to hear it way too many times and it may drive you out of your skin because I’m sorry just doesn’t fill the hole. But maybe this will lessen the blow.

When we say “I’m sorry” we are actually using it in its truest sense. Usually it gets substituted for “excuse me” or closer still “Will you forgive me?” Asking for forgiveness is very vulnerable so we tend to opt for the “I’m sorry” instead which keeps us in the driver seat. But, the truest meaning of “I’m sorry” is not excuse me or forgive me. What we are really saying is this…

I share your sorrow.

I see your sorrow.

I too, am full of sorrow.

I am bearing up this sorrow with you.

At times the words “I’m sorry” are the shortest and clearest path to acknowledging the great pain, perhaps even the wrongness, of loss. It is how we know to come alongside when there is nothing else that can really be said. And yes, the clerk in the grocery store will misuse it when he finds out that the reason you’re all dolled up is to go to a funeral. He will not know what to do with the pain and he will wrongfully use “I’m sorry” to move the conversation along without a shred of real emotion behind it, but many won’t.

For many that “I’m sorry” is frought with true grief and embodies the beauty of us coming together to bear up a loss we were never meant to know. We weren’t created for this. Death wasn’t in the original plan. There can be strength and comfort found in those two words. And when you are grieving strength and comfort can be hard to find.

I hope that anyone grieving tonight has those along side of them who truly are sorry.




He puked directly on the dog’s back.


I had fed the baby, but was unsuccessful in burping him. He’s been a gassy baby from day one, but now he’s got a cold too. An overactive gag reflex means that if he coughs/burps and dislodges a piece of flem, he throws up.  He’d been sitting for a few minutes so I thought I was out of the danger zone when he started grunting uncomfortably. I picked him up to try again. He didn’t even make it to my shoulder before the cold-burp-gag reflex phenomenon took effect bringing us back to my first statement. Now, I have a puked on baby, a puked on dog and a one year old who didn’t want to stay out of the mess.


It was straight comedy.


I shut the dog in the basement, stalled the toddler in the high chair with an oreo and set about preparing a bath in the kitchen sink (like my mom always did). My exceptional love for nostalgia means I don’t own a baby bathtub. Not usually a big deal, but the day before we had torn apart the kitchen sink to fix the water pressure. There’s a reason my dad hates plumbing and par for the course there was now a small leak which required me to turn the water on and off from the main pipe under the cabinets. Thus, I had to remove my normal under the sink items which were now taking up all available counter space.


It gets better.


I cleared a spot for a towel, crawled under the sink, stripped down the baby and started in. I was even insightful enough to put the high chair in the center of the kitchen. This way my able bodied one year old, could not get restless, stand up in his chair and start grabbing stuff off the counter. Go me! Not bad on-my-feet thinking for being in the middle of some seriously unsanitary chaos and my normal sleep deprived state.


Funny thing about the center of the kitchen…


The toddler can’t reach the counter, but I can’t reach the toddler. I had just finished washing the baby’s thick head of hair when number one sneezed; two large lines of mucus streaming to his chin. Umm… apparently the baby isn’t the only one fighting a cold. Now the baby is already submerged in the nice warm water and it is hard to keep his chunky, wobbly three month old tushy upright with two hands. I can’t let him go. If I take the time to get him out I know the toddler will have consumed a years recommended allotment of snot in one sitting. Oh, did I mention there was no tissue to be seen?


If there is one thing I’ve learned about mothers it is this: we find a way.


The baby’s pants were less puked on than everything else and within reach. So balancing his head in my left hand I reached out with my right and achieved a stretch most Yoga professors could not duplicate. With furious laughter my toddler swung his head back and forth in an attempt to elude me. But adrenaline was on my side, honing my aim to sniper status and with one violent swipe I restored his face to a mucus-free state.


Nailed it!


My days are full of dilemmas, messes and impossibilities. And sometimes it is hard to laugh at it all in the moment. It’s easy to be worn down by the length of the season and the repetition. And sometimes I’m just over it. I mean poop, puke, snot… this isn’t exactly glamorous. It’s hidden, hard, work. But the truth is I am growing. These “impossible” situations aren’t impossible. I can make that stretch. I can solve that problem. I can do so much more than I ever thought possible.


And I am never alone.


God is here with me. He’s laughing too if I can slow down and hear Him. If I can stop myself from just surviving these days and recognize that He’s working something in me that is bigger than what I can see with my two eyes. It’s bigger than the counter, and the leaky pipes and the stinky dog (well, not stinky now because he got a bath too). I am not diminished in this role. Rather, each challenge is a promotion from Him. And I’m not just going to be able to do more. I’m going to actually become more…

like a crazy One-Handed-Yoga-Stretching-Snot-Swiping-Ninja Mom!


Verse of the Day - Philippians 4:13 | The Bible App | Bible.com



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The Boy

The whole thing nearly resulted in divorce. The oldest pooped his pants for first time since starting to potty train and he happened to do so in his pajamas with no underwear on. That made quite and interesting mess to work with. I kept my cool, settled my stomach, stripped him down and put him in the bathtub. Nothing a little water can’t fix right? Ha!

My hubby HATES it when my hair clogs the drain but instead of just dumping some Drano down every couple months he bought a little insert that sits in the drain and acts as a sieve. Well, I HATE that stupid thing because you constantly have to scrape it out which is a revoltingly dirty thing to do when you’re trying to get all clean. So for months now we‘ve played a little game of remove the drain/replace the drain. Well, he got smart put it in upside down last time so it would be harder for me to remove.

The point of all of this being I started to rinse off my soiled child before realizing it was in there. Now the little tidbits that had been stuck to his leg were causing a pool of poop water to form in the bottom of the tub. It was all I could do not to swear as I manically spooned unmentionables out of the bathtub drain and tried every trick in the book to pop that filter out. I can now happily report that with a little help from a bobby pin that drain cover is securely in the local dump.

It was hard not to abort the whole process right then and there. Especially because he’d been pooping in the big potty for months and I didn’t know why he would do that. A few days later he wet himself 3 times in an hour and then I was really confused. The rules say don’t put a diaper on him but I wasn’t sure. The “rules” don’t know my child.

As I stood there scratching my head I felt another voice. This one spoke to my heart instead of my head and I recognized the voice of  Wisdom as He gently reminded me “you have a lot going on right now. Why don’t you put a diaper on him and start again tomorrow.” So I did, and do you know what happened? Ten minutes later Cainen came up to me and asked to go potty for the first time since starting to train him.

I think a lot of life is not panicking when we don’t know what we’re doing. Even though  most things in life don’t come with manuals there is Emmanuel- God WITH us. When the methods and understanding we possess don’t stretch far enough He, with perfect understanding, is able to lean in and give us a nudge in the right direction. That takes the pressure off us to know it all and also reminds us that God is big and He is good. That’s even better than a manual!

(Originally written 2009)


The Feathers Fall


I blame it on my father who, at times, has seemed to me the last of the old testament prophets. In truth I’ve never seen him do anything remotely close to what I do. That is to say he’s not one to look for signs in the sky. But I see signs everywhere. God seems always to be speaking to me; in the scriptures, in the moon, in license plates. It is as if He is somehow always whispering… and often chuckling. So I tend to do most things with some measure of significance tied to them; for instance, decorating a Christmas tree.

This past holiday season the tree was decorated with great difficulty. Firstly, a kitten had been living with us (I think I have a slightly funny cat video here). No more explaination is needed there. Secondly my children had no interest in helping me. Turns out my decorating O.C.D. has turned me into a fun sponge and despite several requests no one was interested in stringing lights, hanging gold icicles, or the like. Lastly, the type of evergreen I purchased looked lovely in its natural habitat but it was seriously not conducive to decking a tree in ribbon and baubles (because bringing a tree inside for a month isn’t a strange enough tradition for celebrating the birth of Jesus. We need to “deck” it).

After a couple attempts to decorate it all by my lonesome I had resigned the tree to being a socially accepted eyesore and went on with life. However, upon putting my children to bed on Christmas Eve I was swept up in a fleeting glimpse of holiday spirit and with unforeseen fortitude went to decking the tree one more time. At nearly midnight, after wrapping Christmas gifts by himself, my husband joined me in the sitting room to bask in the white-yellow glow of little lights reflecting off shiny ornaments. I smiled at my handiwork as he complimented me and then proceeded to explain the significance of each element on the tree to him.

A ribbon of musical notes: A reminder that worship is warfare.

Homemade Paper Stars: Our family (we made them together). Common material, temporary and easily damaged and yet, beautiful, unique and important. Handle with care.

Gold and Silver Baubles: Promises I am still believing for

Black Feathers: The sorrows of the year

My husband knows me well enough not to be overly surprised by the weird things I do (putting black feathers on a Christmas tree) and this time he went so far as to enjoy my little memorial. It was a moment we savored together and a few days later, as we continued in our Christmas celebration, he brought something to my attention.  “Hey look! Most of the feathers have fallen off. Its like God is telling us that the sorrows won’t last.”


And they don’t.

Most trials come inconveniently, and stay too long. Unwanted house guests demanding of us more than we care to give. But in the hands of a loving Father, even the most obscene trial, can turn out otherwise unattainable blessings. Whether in this life or the next, every feather will fall. Every sorrow will succumb to silence and nothingness. And what will remain is what is Good. This is a great hope.


“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

-Jesus Christ





The New Me

So there I am. Pulling out of the grocery store parking lot with no children. This means my constant internal dialog could go on uninterrupted. Sweet!

In this particular instance I had been having a daydream where I was talking with someone. This is quite a common scenario for yours truly.

Now my frontal lobe kicks in and I start arguing with the daydream: “Yeah, but I don’t talk like that.”

Enter Holy Spirit commentary:  “But you could.”

Retort: “Well yes but that’s not who I am.”

Revelatory question: “It’s not who you are or it’s not who you’ve learned to be?”

Reflective silence.

Spirit Persists:  “What has formed who you ‘are’ up until now.”

Rolodex bad softball coach, family birth order, favorite teachers, x number of bad boyfriends, social rules, religion and an eclectic mix of instantaneous memories and impressions.


Punch line: “Couldn’t you learn to “be” someone new?”

Suddenly, God is standing there… in my mind… looking at me. The only One who has ever and will ever know who I really “am”.

“I could learn from you. You can make me new.”

He smiles.

Left turn signal. I pull in behind a silver crossover and stare in unbelieving laughter.




Precious Commodities


I recently was pondering time as a fourth dimmension; the dimension in which the other three take place (this could be why I’m such an awful driver). That quickly escalated to involve the concept of the spiritual. I always find it interesting how an infinite God chooses to insert Himself into the finite constructs of time. Many think of eternity as a very long time. For me however, eternity is the absence of time. The gift of being fully present always. But that is left to be determined.

The reality is (along with me being an awful driver) I have to live in the constructs of time which proves challenging for me. When I was first married we had two small sons and we were broke. My husband worked seventy hours a week and we still qualified for government aid. I cooked with beans most nights because it was the only protien we could afford. At that time, money was our scarcest commodity.

Now I have five children- five highly intelligent, energetic, motivated humans who I am responsible for the general care of for at least another ten years. As I walked out the front door this morning I thought about how children change life. It’s not that I have less time than any other human (obviously) but I sure do have less disposable time. My husband could lose his job leaving us with no money and time would still be my scarest commodity.

I think this is because unlike money, or energy, or support I can do nothing to produce more of it. I can’t save it. I can’t create it. I can’t slow it down or speed it up. It answers to me in no regard whatsoever. In fact, the only thing I can do with time is use it. And what that means is that each minute, in my world, has become much more valuable. Supply and demand baby!

And so I asked myself “Are my values reflected in how I use my time.” or to put it another way “What would an inventory of my activities say about my values?” So, ironically, it’s going to take me some time to answer that question. Which may  be more profitable than determining whether or not mankind has erred in our definition of eternity. Sadly, the answer to either is not likely to improve my driving.


Care and Carrying

This post is dedicated to the two women I met walking home from the school this morning. Thank you so much for your kindness, for stopping to chat about life. You gave me courage that there are still neighbors in this world if we’ll slow down a little. We may not all be strangers after all.


(The following was written in 2008. Back when there were only two children and all was new in life.)

My husband got his first stitches this week. He crashed his bike on the way to work and decided that his face should break his fall. Thank you Father that he was wearing his helmet and that there were no broken bones. I got him home and cleaned him up but it didn’t take long to see that the large gash on his chin was beyond my skill. So off we went to the doctor. I watched as she numbed the pain and somehow, through a very not-so-pretty process, pulled the jagged edges of skin back together. Seven stitches later my hubby walked out a little less worse for the wear.


It’s funny, you never have to tell a mom to care. We care about everything all the time. My husband didn‘t even have to ask me to help him. I got the man some pain pills, sent him to bed and threw myself into a three hour cycle of treating his wounds. Heck, I even made homemade chicken noodle soup when I didn’t even know how to make chicken noodle soup. As a mom I just intrinsically care for the hurts around me.


I wish all wounds were as easy to treat as a scrape (even a bad one). As I was lying in bed tonight my mind was racing with all the wounds  I can’t heal; broken relationships, strongholds of fear and pain, stresses, lies, shame, addiction. Every hard situation flashed through my brain (regrettably the Mommy Care trigger doesn‘t flip as easily to the off position as it does the on. In fact, I don‘t know that it has an off position at all). I started to feel overwhelmed and knew I wasn‘t getting back to sleep any time soon.  Finally I resigned that again the gashes were beyond my skill and a trip to the Doctor was in order.   


As I prayed my mind raced with thoughts about what role I was to play in all of these things. Have I said too little? Have I said too much? How do I “bear with one another” and also set good boundaries? How am I supposed to help anyone else when I’m already so insufficient to meet the basic needs of my own family? And what am I honestly to do with this burden I feel for my friends and family, who through choice or circumstance have come into a very hard place? As I wrestled with these things I felt Him say “I’m giving it to someone who will give it to me.”


Often in our lives, we don’t simply bring our needs to the Father. Too much confusion, too much shame, too much pride and that old cross is just a little too rugged to fall on again. So the Lord puts people in our lives who will take the need for us. When others are bound up and crippled we pick up the need and carry it to Jesus for them. This is what it is to “bear with one another.”


Still, for people, and moms in particular, there is the temptation to hang on to those things. Perhaps we feel good helping someone and want to keep it as sort of trophy. Maybe we like to hang on to it because it makes us feel better about our… less-troubled station in life. Even more common, we just get distracted and forget where we were supposed to be heading with it. We sit and we roll it over in our hand or try to pick it apart, see how it works and even try and fix the mess (which is a little like a monkey tying to make sense of a mile long slinky). It doesn’t take too long before the burdens pile up and we fall under the weight.


And perhaps this is what I’ve learned most as a mother. That I am a very limited creature. For all my fussing, and all my well-intentioned aid there is very little I can actual do. But my God is limitless and if I truly care, I won’t hang on to all these needs. I will carry them swiftly and continually to my Father and lay them down. Who knows? Maybe while I’m there I might even lay down a few of my own and find some much needed rest for my own soul.


-Going back to bed (don’t you people know it’s 5:00 in the morning!)