Thursday, December 3, 2020



When I read this verse from Isaiah, the first thing I think is that I need to rebuild who I am in order to fully participate in the rebuilding of the broader community. Only when I participate with God in making me who He made me to be can I help make this world more like it could be.

In many ways, I am already a different person than I used to be. Emotional armor that I needed to get through phases in my life has been shed. Behaviors have been learned and unlearned. I see the world and the people in it differently than I used to. I am not finished, but I am being rebuilt.

Our country has a breach in its very foundation. To repair the breach of racism is deep, hard and necessary work. And while I do need to work on identifying and rooting out racism in myself, my habits and my thoughts, I wonder if it's a cop out to say I have to rebuild myself before I participate in the rebuilding of my community.

I think a better approach in my mind, my heart and my hands would be to remember that as I am being rebuilt, I can rebuild my world. If I wait until I am fully repaired, restored and rebuilt, I will never be able to be a repairer of the breach. It must be both/and, not either/or.

May I be curious about the world around me. May I learn and change. May I be rebuilt and may I work to rebuild the systems and communities I belong to. May I rebuild what I have broken and participate in the repairing the broken world I've inherited.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020



Sometimes, the best way to #strengthen a bone or a body or a world-weary heart is to rest. 

I don't enjoy the necessity of slowing down. I don't enjoy the difficulty of even a short trip by car: hobble down the stairs, remove the boot, drive, park, put on the boot, hobble into my destination, repeat. But I am using my time more judiciously. I am deciding whether I truly need to leave the house. I am asking for help (daughters make great chauffeurs). I am slowing down so that my leg will strengthen.

May I have the grace to not just accept this time of healing, but relish it. Where do you need to rest to find strength?

Sunday, November 29, 2020



This is a tender time
for those who wait for you

We wait with hope
intermingled with our despair
We wait impatiently
We wait urgency
for the wrongs to be made right

This is a tender time
for birth is ever tender
your newborn skin is red and papery
and we lay exhausted after
the exertion of birth

May we have strength in this tender time
to stay tender and not become callous
as we wait

Friday, January 5, 2018


Eighteen years ago, I was in the hospital. I may have been dozing between feedings or learning how to hold this new human of mine or simply staring at her with Jason beside me. He and I had no idea what we were doing. Anna turned eighteen today and we still don't really know what we're doing.

I have no more idea how to parent an eighteen year old than I did that tiny infant. I didn't cry when my mom left me at college. I didn't cry when I left home after my wedding. I did cry when my mom left to go home when Anna was one week old. I was terrified. I had no real experience with newborns and in the final weeks of pregnancy, Jason and I kept reassuring ourselves, "We can do this. Other people have figured it out. We will, too." I felt every ounce of the emptiness of those words when that tiny girl was placed in my arms. How was I supposed to know what she needed?

The way I handled it then was the way I still approach parenting - I studied her. I don't mean I read parenting books (non-fiction? boring!). I didn't go to parenting classes. I didn't have a community to ask for advice. I simply studied Anna herself. I watched for her wants and needs, her little ways. I tried some things that worked and others that didn't. I thought at the time that I was figuring out parenting. Then Bekah came along and the things that worked with Anna did not work with her. So I started all over. I studied her. And began the same long study one last time when Kate arrived.

I have been a student of my daughters for eighteen years. I know their favorite meals, the foods they won't eat, the best way to wake them up. I know who needs pushing, who needs consolation and who needs encouragement (and when - obviously they all need these things at some time or another). This knowledge doesn't mean I always get it right. Sometimes I misread the situation or my emotions take control. Sometimes I can know them and see their need and still not be able to fix it. I couldn't write a dissertation on parenting. After all, I've only studied three children. But I do know these three pretty well.

And that is why I know that eighteen year old Anna is both young and old. There are some experiences she's avoided that her peers take in stride. But she knows herself - her strengths, her limitations, her needs, her body - better than some people decades older than she is. I know that she is alternately confident and insecure (aren't we all 18?). I know that she is a hard worker, a fast learner and a rule follower. (Today at lunch she assured me that this last trait is what will ensure she is a good worker at any job she gets.  I didn't tell her that her strong writing skills, inquisitive mind and willingness to speak up are just as valuable as following the rules. She will likely learn that on her own.)

For the last five years, my final Christmas gift to my girls has been a list of words that describe them. Each girl gets one word for each year of age, so Anna got seventeen words. Her final word was "ready." I think we both teared up a little when I read that one aloud. But she is ready.

Ready to finish high school.
Ready to learn new things.
Ready to vote.
Ready to spread her wings.
Maybe even ready to break a few rules.
She is ready to go.

None of this really means that *I* am ready. But I've studied Anna long and hard and I know readiness when I see it. For now, that will have to be enough.

Saturday, December 2, 2017


A little over ten years ago, my daughter auditioned for Nashville Ballet's Nutcracker. She was nearly eight at the time and was cast as the black lamb. After her casting, the list of practices and performances was given to us. After looking at it, I went to talk to her.

"Anna," I began, "I've been looking at the Nutcracker schedule. You know how we were planning to go to Disney World this year before Christmas?"

"Yes?" she replied.

"Well, it looks like the Nutcracker won't be over in time for us to go before Christmas."

A short pause ensued, during which I was about to suggest she wait a year and audition for the Nutcracker next year. Until she said, "Well... could I stay here while you go to Disney World? Do you think Uncle Joel and Aunt Alanna will be here? Could I just stay with them?"

"Um, no," I replied. "We're not going without you. I'll change the trip."

And I did change the trip. It was the first momentous occasion that our family worked around ballet, but not the last. For a decade, we planned vacations, missed major events and run much of our family calendar around ballet. Until August 30, 2017. That was the day Anna walked out of the studio and didn't go back in. It was the day I deleted dozens of recurring events in our family calendar. It was a day of freedom and choosing self-worth and also a day of loss. Crazy how those things go together, isn't it?

The last three months have been quiet and it has been a joy to have Anna at home more than she's been for all of high school. She's played with the dog, finished her homework before dinner, been present for nearly every family dinner and even had time to watch a TV show with me on a weeknight or two. It may make August all the harder when she heads off for college, but I have been soaking up the time with her like a sponge.

And she has unfurled. All of the tension and stress and much of the anxiety have simply melted away. She laughs more. She cries less. Her moods are more even. She is happier.

And yet.

Last night was opening night of her former company's Nutcracker. And we weren't there. And she didn't dance. We talked that morning before school. I asked how she was feeling. We were both a little sad. There's a sense that we were robbed of saying good-bye to the process because she left before her senior year ended. I never got to give her flowers on stage, not even when she danced Odette. She didn't get to have one final dressing room selfie with her friends. We won't have senior pictures that show her dancing.

But she got to leave on her own terms. She got to choose that her last Nutcracker would be one as Snow Queen. She chose to not spend fall of her senior year doing something that would have been laced with sadness. She chose to see who she is when she's not dancing. She chose herself. And if that's not a powerful thing for a seventeen year old girl to do, I don't know what is.

I still have anger and sadness over the truth of what the ballet world is and what it was to my daughter. I regret entrusting her to adults who don't see children as children, but as resources to be used for their own betterment. I regret that I didn't see them for who they were before they hurt her. I hate that the only way to heal and become whole is to experience pain.

I long for the day when Jesus will come back and make everything right. I want him to come and take that small place in our souls that is untouched by anything we have done or has been done to us - that pure kernel he put there at our creation - and bring it to full flower. Because only he can do that without pain. Our only way to find who we are is to go through the removal of all the layers encircling (and protecting?) that kernel. It is worth it to lose the layers, but it's not painless.

So I am sad that I didn't get to see Anna dance in one last Nutcracker. But I am also relieved. And I am immensely proud of her wisdom and strength and courage. On opening night, you couldn't have paid me to go near the theater. But Anna drove over there after school and her friends snuck her backstage so that she could give them good luck notes of encouragement. She has a bravery and resilience that is powerful to behold. May it always be so.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


: coming at the end of a series

This will be my final WordGirl post.  After months of thinking about it, I've finally taken the plunge and switched from Blogspot to Wordpress.  I'll still be writing when the mood strikes, but after more than 600 posts here at WordGirl, I think it's time to move on.

There are a few things on this blog that I've outgrown (using only the first initials of my daughters' names, for example) and if there's a theme I want to more consistently explore, it's how the words we use impact others.  So I'll be blogging at from now on.  I want to think about the words I'm planting and what kind of harvest those words might bring.

I'm thankful for the experiment that this blog was for me.  I learned from the discipline of it and I'm always a bit amazed to go back and read some of my early posts and realize not only how much my children have grown, but how I've grown as a writer over these last five years.

In scrolling through the posts on this blog, it's funny to see how things have changed... when I wrote my first post back in 2008, my eldest daughter was eight.  In less than a week, my youngest daughter will be nine.  I'm in a whole new phase of parenting than I was when I started writing about the trials, travails, successes and failures of parenting three daughters.

But some things haven't changed.  I still long to be the best parent I can be.  I long to see myself more clearly and writing helps me do that more than just about anything other than prayer.  I've come to see writing as a way to invite others to join me on my journey through life.

So I invite you to join me at

You can sign up there to receive e-mail updates on posts.  Or just stop by when the mood strikes you and you wonder what WordGirl and her girls are up to.

For this final post, I'll leave you with some images from today's hike in the woods of Door County, Wisconsin.

Friday, May 10, 2013


:a garment worn for swimming

I have recently had the unenviable task of purchasing three swimsuits - one for my teen daughter, one for my preteen and one for myself.  While the definition of swimsuit is deceptively banal, I doubt there is a female over the age of sixteen that sees a swimsuit as a mere "garment worn for swimming."

Yesterday, I found myself standing in a Shopko in Sister Bay, Wisconsin trying on swimsuits.  Why?  Because in the marathon of packing that ensued before leaving Nashville, I forgot to pack a swimsuit for myself.  If K were a couple of years older, I would have just gone without.  But she's not.  She can't swim at the YMCA pool without an adult in the water with her.  Given that she is enrolled for swimming lessons while here, it's a good thing an adult must be present.  The bad news is that meant I had to find something to wear in the pool.

To say that clothing selections are limited on this tiny peninsula is an understatement.  The nearest Target?  A drive that will take 45 minutes to an hour.  

So yesterday I tried on two tankini tops and four tankini bottoms, finally settling on one that will do - at least for the remaining three weeks of this trip.  But what I kept thinking about was how different this experience was than shopping for swimsuits with my daughters.

A few weeks ago, I took A & B to Kohl's to shop for swimsuits.  I thought Kohl's would be a good place to try because their junior's section offered jeans and other clothing that fit A & B well and was appropriate.  But they don't carry juniors swimsuits.  Everything is in the adult section.  This meant 1) a one piece was out of the question - all of their one piece suits looked too old for ME, much less two cute tweens and 2) finding a two piece to fit was going to be a challenge.  They both actually liked a couple of suits in the children's section and while they weren't too small, it was immediately apparent that my daughters no longer have children's bodies.  A swimsuit made for a flat chested ten year old was not going to do the trick.

A few weeks before this shopping trip, A asked me if she could get a bikini this year.  She caught me off guard, so I gave her a bluntly honest answer.  She asked.  I said no.  She asked why and I told her I didn't think she was ready to wear a bikini.  "Honey, I think wearing a bikini sends the message, 'I am comfortable with my sexuality.'  I don't think you could honestly say that, so I don't think you should wear something that sends that message."  She looked a bit shocked at my response, but when I asked if she agreed, she did.  I was much older than any of my daughters before I fully understood that the way guys interpret my clothing and appearance was vastly different than I did.  I don't want my daughters to never be sexy.  The exact opposite, in fact.  I want them to wear a bikini when they are emotionally ready to do so and I want them to wear it proudly.  I want them to know just how beautiful they are and enjoy that feeling.  But for now, we were looking for a tankini, not a bikini.

At Kohl's, they tried on suit after suit - several were too big, A disliked the padded breast inserts in one, B couldn't stand the way another fell off her shoulders every time she moved.  They finally ended up buying identical tankini tops with boy shorts (one black pair, one purple pair) to go with them.  While I felt haggard and cracked a joke about this process needed to come with a free margarita, it was more from the running back and forth from the dressing room to the racks than because we couldn't find a suit that looked good.  They all looked good, some just fit better than others.

As I shopped yesterday, I caught myself thinking about how A & B looked cute in everything they put on.  There wasn't a single swimsuit that looked bad on them because of their bodies - the cut of the suit or its size just meant some of the suits weren't meant for them.  At least that's what I thought.  Maybe B was thinking about her butt or A was thinking about her thighs.  I hope not.  Because while my daughters may have felt like they didn't look good in a swimsuit or two, the fact is that they have fabulous bodies.  The sadder fact is that as I shopped yesterday, I envied them.

I say this is sad because they are 11 and 13 and I am 40.  I should not expect myself to have the body of someone more than two decades younger than me.  But that is what I desire, if not what I expect.  Why do I desire that?  In part because the world tells women that no matter their age, they should have the slim, lithe body of an adolescent girl.  Never mind the fact that I've given birth to and nursed three children.  Or that I was too self conscious in my own adolescence to build the muscle mass I now wish I had.  Or that my natural shape is neither slim nor lithe.  That's still what I want.  What I long for.

I don't want to envy my daughters their cute bodies, but I do - even more, I envy their comfort and familiarity with their bodies and their embodiment of who they are via their bodies.  I know my daughters have had and will have moments when they do not feel swimsuit worthy, moments when they wish for different hair, different breasts, longer legs.  But I hope they will make it through adolescence not with an adolescent body but with a comfort in who they are and how they look.  I hope that, many years from now, when they shop for swimsuits at age 40, they can relish who they are when they look in the dressing room mirror and not long to be who they once were.