it’s august…

dinner-time-4… and so, we try to practice sabbath in one, giant, concentrated chunk. sabbath is rest. sabbath is letting go of striving and choosing to trust instead. sabbath is humility. it says, “this world doesn’t go ’round because of my effort but by the grace of an all-sufficient and generous Father. therefore, the world can afford to live without me for a minute.” 

that’s why it’s a spiritual discipline. and like all disciplines, it therefore has to be fought for. 

already, i can tell we are really going to have to fight for it this year. 

because the financial situation of the boiler room is skimpy skimpy skimpy. because friends are hurting and need to be cared for. because we have two small children. because we both really love our work. 

it’s only day 2, but i’ll tell you, i’m not doing a very good job yet. it will take some practice. and a little adrenaline detox. 

this coming week i have photo sessions and meetings with potential clients and partners. tim has meetings with potential donors and supporters. the work won’t cease this year, but we’ll do our best to keep it within bounds. 

i have Psalm 23’s first first written on our chalkboard wall, 

The Lord is my shepherd; I will want for nothing.

that’s the mantra and the meditation i’m carrying around in my pocket.

meanwhile, i am praising God for His foresight in having me “accidentally” pay for our entire week-long vacation rental in advance, so that we cannot decide to skip that unplugged week in a meadow by a crystal clear lake in northern Michigan. we would surely have cut it out as an unnecessary luxury in the face of financial worry if there weren’t a non-refundable fee. come on, august 17!! 


she was never here

[note : i drafted this weeks ago, but am just now sharing it here]

her tiny self occupied our house, consumed most of our time, and devoured my emotional energy for 10 days.

this morning i dropped her off at the meeting point, where she would be reunited with her mama, whom she has not seen in seven years. before i had even parked, she was unbuckling her seatbelt, opening the van door, and spilling out into the parking lot without a look back. before i had a chance to get out of the car, she had been swept up in her mama’s arms, her mama’s tears falling into her hair, a smile spread across her face.

hazel, our other foster daughter, and i stood awkwardly by, smiling at the joy that was theirs. she didn’t acknowledge us, would not have said goodbye had we not initiated it.

somehow, this is not surprising. because though she was here for 10 days, she was never actually here. she came in with the entirety of her being focused solely and relentlessly on one goal: to get into her mama’s arms. daily, multiple times a day, she asked the same questions over and over, arguing the answers, begging and pestering, insisting and demanding that we accomplish this goal for her immediately. along the way, she also demanded other things, like mcdonald’s take-out and new clothes and trips to the beach, but she relished none of it. the moment distraction ceased, she returned to her relentless pursuit of getting what she wanted. now.

all of us — my family, her caseworker, her teachers, and even her friend and foster-sister in our home — functioned as tools. there was no affection, no appreciation. we were her assistants, employed to do her bidding. her foster sister was sent to deliver her demands to us, and to get things for her when she was laying in bed on the phone with her mama for hours each day. i was the access point to the telephone, and the gatekeeper for how many times a night she could talk to her caseworker or mother. her caseworker was a machine expected to churn out results at her bidding. she had no concept of the reality that each of us had responsibilities and priorities outside of her comfort or immediate gratification, or that perhaps she was using and abusing us.

she’s only 10 years old, and so i’ve wondered if i’m expecting too much of her, more than her maturity can afford. is this developmentally normal? or normal for kids in a situation like hers? yet, the other kids i’ve met or fostered in this program have not been like this. they have moved in, cozied up, laughed and enjoyed the liminal space they found themselves in. they have not attempted to manage or control things too large for them to carry, things outside their control.

i’m not proud of how i responded to her in the middle of the messiness that she carried. i am not patting myself on the back for how well i loved her, particularly because i saw my heart, and how resentful and angry it was even when i had a smile falsely plastered to my face. i used an impatient tone, often. i avoided her. i mumbled about her under my breath. these are not the things loving foster mothers do. i still can’t quite grasp just how such a tiny and harmless girl could shake me so deeply! it’s a bit unnerving.

but i’m looking at the spiritual parallels here. i’m looking at all the times that i have refused to be present in the here-and-now reality of a life season, or a moment. instead of setting my attention on the gifts accessible right now, i have been so consumed with things future, things too heavy for me to carry, mysteries i cannot comprehend, that i have been unable to seize current joy. how many times have i used others only as a means to an end, rather than allowing my heart to be open to them for all that they are, and for how i  might bless them, even as i wait to see how my own story will end.

in other ways, the positive spiritual lesson this little girl teaches me is about looking forward with passion and hopeful expectation for the day when my own Reunion will occur. That brilliant day when i’ll see my Jesus’ face for the first time.

24 hours in

24 hours into this foster parenting gig, i want to make note of some beautiful things:


  • the way that V (age 15) searched me so intently with her wide, dark eyes, as if she was searching my spirit, trying to ascertain if i was safe, good. based on the way that she now looks just as intently into my eyes, but with a smile creasing her face, i conclude that she has decided i’m okay.
  • the chalk art of fancy ladies and hearts that appear, get erased, and drawn again on the chalkboard wall by J (age 7).
  • the fact that all six of us held hands in a long line as we walked from the mini van to the mexican restaurant the first night.
  • hazel puking all over the high chair, table, and floor at the mexican restaurant. J and V taking it all in stride.
  • seeing J play, so happily and so naturally making herself at home. she’s playing pretend, keeping so busy at it, as if it’s her job, which of course it is.
  • V with Gus, and how quieted he is in her arms.
  • J’s delight over el gato (the cat).
  • roasting marshmallows over the fire in the wood stove tonight, laughing when they went up in flames. J and V had never done this common american thing before.
  • the wholesome busy-ness of a day spent tending to the needs of four children, and especially feeding them.
  • Hazel trying to chatter away in friendly hospitality to J and V, not understanding that they cannot understand her. Hazel says to them, “you make funny words!”
  • J’s enthusiastic and sincere “thank you!” upon being told she would get to make her own pizza for dinner tonight.
  • the constant use of translation apps on my iPhone, and how humbling it is to be so utterly UN-proficient at something (speaking in Spanish).
  • chopping vegetables in the kitchen with V, asking her which ones she likes, and seeing her taste her first olive and twist her mouth with distaste at its flavor.
  • the blessedness of a quiet afternoon when my own littles were asleep and J and V sat cuddled on the couch watching a Disney movie in Spanish on YouTube, while i read my new magazine and sipped on tea.

feeling glad to be doing this work, happy for the ways it is already expanding us as a family, hoping and praying that Father will minister to their hearts in this home He’s given us to share.


why i chose this : following Jesus

i chose when i was 2, which i always thought must be impossible, like maybe my mom forced me into it. but i can tell you now, as a mother who prays nearly every day for Jesus to reveal himself to her kids in ways that they can understand and know Him… He does that. Jesus reveals himself to babes, and they begin to “get” it, which is mystery and grace and altogether wonderful.

but this is beside the point.

i chose to follow Jesus as a teenager and in college because my mind was satisfied enough, stimulated even, and my heart yearned for his good news to be true. he was a moral compass, a comforting truth, an assurance that when the suffering of this life ended, there would be release in heaven.

but i chose to follow him in earnest when, in my mid-twenties, he delivered me from the pit (the kingdom of heaven starts here in this lifetime). he snatched me right out of the mire and healed my heart, and he did it with so much personal attention, so many small signs and wonders that only i would understand. he revealed himself to me and allowed me to really feel and know his love deep in my bones. he gave me relationship with Holy Spirit in a way i never knew was possible, he taught me how to really pray and then showed me how he answers. he showed me how to sink into my confident sonship with Papa, and he let me learn and hear his voice. and through all of this  he became beautiful to me, and potent, and wise, and tender, and absolutely worthy of my devotion. that testimony is a longer one, and if you really want to read it, you can read it if you want to PM me to ask for it.

and then i vowed my life to him. the same day that i married tim, tim and i also said some vows to God. we said we’d be true to him, that we’d be kind to others, and that we’d go wherever he told us to go with the gospel. i wear a ring on my wedding finger that symbolizes that vow. and divorce is not an option.

so now, you see, even though there may be seasons when things are dry between us, or when i’m unhappy with him, or when i want very much to avoid him… we’re still married. and i know that he is still alive and active and as good as he’s ever been. so i still choose to follow Jesus. and i hope that i always will.

everything else in this series about why i chose this or that or the other thing really hangs on this first thing: that i chose (choose) to follow Jesus.



One thing a miscarriage can do, I believe, is to soften you, open you. Maybe the heart mimics what the body is doing as it releases — whether you like it or not — the baby-that-would-have-been into the hands of God.

I had a[nother] miscarriage this weekend. It feels so surreal to name it, particularly in public like I am now. I didn’t know I was pregnant, had not sought to be, had in fact tried not to become so. My only clue was an uncharacteristic acne break-out, which I dismissed by way of other explanations.

Gus is so small still and I so overwhelmed by the task of caring for two, that I have not felt at all ready for babe #3. But it turns out that he would have become a big brother this coming august, had things turned out differently.

There was sudden and severe bleeding and consequent light-headedness. A trip to the ER where my blood pressure bottomed out and for several terrifying moments I feared I would leave my children motherless. There was the rather tactless delivery of the pregnancy test results, described in present tense and yet already in past tense. There was an ambulance ride to the main hospital downtown Madison, during which I sang worship to my Jesus, who was so near. There was lots of monitoring and an ultrasound to “rule out fetal activity” or ectopic pregnancy. There was so much blood, and so also a blood transfusion. There was waiting. Finally there was prayer-evoked miracle as we rounded a corner and came out of the woods, elated with relief that at least I was no longer in serious danger.

The same night I was back at my in-laws house, tucked in with my living babies, depleted, weak and exhausted but alive and grateful.

This was an unusual miscarriage. Such extreme blood loss isn’t typical. And it is certainly a complicated grief to be told about your baby in the same moment you are losing them.

But the softening… It has left me tender. It has put things into perspective, shrinking small dramas to their appropriate sizes, and making room on my heart to love another which, I believe, every pregnancy must do. We grow new spaces in our heart for each little person we carry. And if that space isn’t to ultimately be filled by a born and hold-able baby, we will share it with someone else who needs it. We will not be able to turn back or close off that new addition. So perhaps we move toward a future pregnancy with surprising new resolve and urgency, or we realize how much we do in fact want to become a mother (as was the case after my first miscarriage in 2010), or we cling tighter to the loved ones we already have…

… Or in some unusual case perhaps we are given an opportunity to open our arms and our home to a stranger, drawing on that deep reservoir of newly uncovered maternal tenderness to love them openly.

Which is the case for us. Because two days later we received a call about a pregnant teenage refugee who is giving birth today and needs a soft placed to land until a more permanent situation can be arranged when she turns 18. And against all worldly wisdom, only because Holy Spirit gave both of us a unity of peaceful Yes, we said yes to her, to them.

Today she us in a hospital in Michigan, laboring to give birth to her baby while I am packing up in Wisconsin for a return to our home where we will make room for these two (I have already arranged the furniture in mind ), so that when they are released from the hospital we can help to catch them with our love… A love I’m not actually sure I would have been able to access in this already crazy life season if I had not just suffered this loss and the scare that surrounded it.

I don’t know if that will make sense to many of you… But somehow I sense that these two events are a pair, by design.

Today I am thanking Papa and this little unknown child of ours for the gift of softening, opening.

home study #1


today we had our first home study on this journey to become licensed foster care parents for refugee minors.

we sat around our table with a licenser and her supervisor, happily chatting, receiving instruction, answering questions, talking about why this is  road we’re walking in the first place.

and those reasons are so anticlimactic, so matter-of-fact.

and right now this entire thing feels so abstract, so far-off, so difficult to imagine.

part of me wants to do what i always do when i have Big Life Questions and want to anticipate and understand them: that is, i want to Google it. i want to devour articles and blogs and stories from others who’ve walked this road and been brave enough to share about it in a real way. but the google search results are yielding limited results, since the fostering of refugee foster kids is in so many ways a different animal than the fostering of american kids in the american system, and also less common, which means i haven’t been able to find a single blog/account/personal story of someone who has gone before us.

thankfully, we know a few families personally and we can pick their brains.

but really it might be best that i can’t piece together a detailed sketch of what this will be like: how it will feel to have him/her/them sitting at our table in the dark, quiet evenings, sharing a meal of food that i’ve learned to make just so that they’d feel a bit more at home, watching him/her/them play with my children in a manner at first tentative then surprisingly familiar, driving him/her/them to and from school, trying to communicate around language and cultural barriers, waking up to see his/her/their brown-skin faces greeting me.

how old will he/she/they be? we can’t seem to settle on a particular profile of The Sort of Kid(s) We Want, because we believe the Holy Spirit will tell us Yes or No on a case by case basis and really we can make anything work for a little while. and this sort of foster care is usually always just for a little while.

which leads me to wondering what it will be like to have him/her/them be here so briefly, requiring an opening of our hearts and hands and home to love and sacrifice, only to leave again, so soon and to such unknown futures.

the licensers told us today that the real need is for families who are open to taking teenage boys. boys will stay longer than just a few weeks because they are not transitional like the younger ones who are in pursuit of living family already in the country, but whom have no one else to go home to. they need a family that will stick with them for a long haul.

an african or south american teenage boy? for years? can we begin to imagine that?

tonight i told Hazel that daddy and mommy have been talking about having other boys and girls come live with us in our house.

me: “what do you think of that?”

h: “i think…good.”

me: “do you think it should be a boy or a girl?”

h: “a boy.”

me: “do you think it will be a big boy or a little boy?”

h: “a BIG boy!”

me: “like vivi’s big brothers max and ib (they are 15 and 16 years old, respectively, and one of them is a refugee from the Congo)? do you want a boy like that?”

h: “yes!”

i won’t read too much into that, but she’s been known to be weirdly prophetic in the past. i bless her open heart. later she exclaimed,”he come live in mine house with ME! i love mine house so much!”

on the occasion of your 9th month

towel-baby-1dear sweet boy of mine (buster, gus-gus, buddy, son),

yesterday you turned 9 months old, which means you have been outside of my body now just as long as you were inside of it. this also means that you are three-quarters of the way through your first year of life.

you are crawling around at lightning speed, usually goal-directed, with the kitty cat, a tempting toy, or your mama as the target destination. you pull yourself up to standing like it’s no big thing, and you can balance already quite well. if we hold your hands while standing behind you, you will take steps across a room. i am guessing you’ll walk before your first birthday.

you eat. bananas, avocados, potatoes (sweet and white ones), apples, gluten-free pasta with sauce, chicken curry with rice, broccoli (a favorite), beans, goat cheese, veggie-quinoa soup, strawberries, and almost anything that i am eating that i’ll share with you. you always eat more than i think you will. i think it’s possible that between you and your sister, daddy and i will be eaten out of house and home. such good appetites you have.

you sleep on your belly, even though i put you down on your back every time. you’re still in our room with us, in a pack ‘n play at the foot of the bed, disrupting me multiple times a night with your waking, sometimes because you want to nurse (you were too busy during the day to do it, so you make up for it at night), or because you want to practice your new developmental skills, or sometimes because you just need to sleep in my arms, beside me in the big bed.

but that’s just the physicality of you. your spirit is the more incredible thing to witness.

you move through your world with courageous curiosity and good humor. you are not easily startled by unfamiliarity or loud noises. you just move right into a space with an assumption that things will go well for you there. you rarely hang back. you take all things in stride, quietly and with a bemused smile on your face. some moments, you are squirming out of my arms in a way that seems to say, “let me at it!”

you are quick to laugh, especially at Hazel and any form of peek-a-boo, or mama’s face pushed into your belly on the changing table. you are slow to cry. usually it is only teething or hunger that will bring out your grunting, humming vocalization of displeasure or discomfort that most closely resembles crying but really isn’t crying by any traditional definition.

you are significant. you bring something to the table that matters, something no one else can bring. you are courageous and gentle. you make a difference.

i am so proud and so terribly grateful to be your mama. there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you. you are my favorite son.



frustrated intentions

i intended to begin rising again before my babies do, to shower and dress and center on Truth, and drink a first cup of coffee.

          then G started more frequent night-wakings and i at the time i should be waking, it seems he’s just finally settling.


i intended to stop wearing frumpy things, like that much-too-large ivory polyester button-down sweater. 

          then it got really cold and it was so warm.

life & light : my first photography workshop


[originally posted here]

i’ve toyed with the idea — largely due to having received so many requests — of having a workshop that would teach folks how to use their DSLRs the way they were intended to be used. it’s a real need. i mean, more and more of us have taken the plunge and purchased a nice DSLR camera, with high hopes of having better pictures to show for it, and then it somehow disappoints a bit. we realize that a good camera doesn’t automatically lead to great pictures. truth is, we have to learn how a camera works, what exposure is and how you achieve it, how to compose an artful image, how to meter and focus, etc. etc. if we don’t know how to do those things, the “Auto” setting is all that remains available to us, but “Auto” — though smart in certain ways — is not ever going to be a great photographer. because of this, i like the idea of spending a chunk of time equipping people to learn how to use the fantastic camera they’ve invested in, empowering them to take shots of their families and personal lives in a way that they can feel good about.

but there are lots of workshops out there to teach the technicalities, both online and in camera stores, and from other photographers. you don’t have to look far to learn how to use your DSLR.

so if i’m going to do something like this, i want to bring my unique self to the table, offered up as a gift to those who might feel inclined to receive me. and i think my particular gift, my niche, is this: to notice ordinary moments and to capture them in a way that let’s you see their beauty. this is the feedback i get the most often, and it’s also the gift that lays behind my two specialties of family photojournalism and birth photography. it’s how i photograph my own family, too.

that is what i hope to offer to you in this workshop. i want to invite you to sit in my living room around my wood stove on a wintery day. i want to offer you pastries and coffee while we sit down and have a conversation not just about the technicalities of DSLR use, but also about our lives. i want to take time together to practice gratitude and noticing and light.

i want to talk about how to use a DSLR with technical skill for the larger purpose of celebrating the life that’s unfolding around you, in all its glorious ordinariness. 

here’s what i’m envisioning it will look like: the first part of the day will be spent learning the how-tos of DSLRs while we sip our hot beverages, then we’ll move into conversation about telling a story with our photos and “finding beauty.” we’ll have a yummy lunch together while we talk more. then the afternoon will be space to practice what we’ve been learning and discussing, through a few different invitations.

because i want to keep this highly personal and want to give each participant the attention he/she deserves, space is limited to 6. so if this resonates with you, listen to that, get in touch with me, and register now.

i am so stinking excited.




12 hours after putting this workshop “out there” online (facebook, blog, email), it was completely filled up.

i feel like i’m onto something here. like i’ve stumbled onto a path that is right, which utilizes the unique giftings and competencies (photography, hospitality, seeing deeper beauty, encouraging women) Father has given me by His Spirit. i suppose this is because the entire vision and most of the details came flooding into my head space during a community worship session, and i had the distinct feeling it was from the Holy Spirit.

doing this sort of things — as cheesy as it might sound — really makes me feel really alive. if the glory of God is man fully alive, than i hope this brings Him glory.

feeling so blessed today.