Requiem (and hope).

I’m listening to Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, in full, as I write tonight. I learned to adore this work circa 1996 at Berry College, under the direction of Harry Musselwhite. It speaks largely of death, and so maybe you might wonder at my love of it. Of course bottom line, it’s just gorgeous music. But also it tells a larger story–not just death, but the promise of something after that, the promise of light on the other side of that which we must say goodbye to.

“Requiem” is, in the Catholic church, a musical composition offered for the repose of the soul in death. I know–super cheery, but work with me here. It can also just a mean an act of remembrance, a token, of sorts, for that which is no more.

And of course that makes a full musical requiem an appropriate thing to listen to today–Holy Saturday, this time in between Jesus’ death and resurrection. This time of not knowing for Mary, his mother, for Mary Magdalene, for the countless others mourning him. This time of everything his followers had given their lives to having been, it seems, lost.

This time of utter terror and such pain and deep, deep grief.

Requiem is also an appropriate thing to offer in the middle of a pandemic–when in just a few short weeks, as of this weekend and this writing, 20,000 people have died, just in the United States. The worldwide number hovers just over 100,000. And yes–I know–many thousands more die of all sorts of things and in all sorts of horrid ways the world over. And certainly in the United States. But that makes this no less real. No less a tragedy. No less something we ought to take seriously, ought to do our best to combat, for our own lives, as well as those of our neighbors.

Lives have been lost. So have jobs. And financial security. And safety. And birthdays and weddings and graduations and memorial services and in-real-life classrooms and soccer games and baseball’s opening day and all sorts of community events. Make no mistake, the isolation that fighting this virus requires produces real grief and real trauma. It is, at best, uncomfortable; it is, at worst, a loss from which some of us will not recover. And for many who survive, the return to anything that resembles thriving will be a difficult road.

When will this be over? How long before grandparents can let their grandchildren back up on their laps? How long before separated significant others can touch, hug, kiss, just be, together again? How long before I can go to the grocery store without feeling like every particle of air is out to get me? How long before our children are able to resume their own lives? It’s so crucial for them to have being outside of us. When will I get to take communion again from actual hands of fellow church members? When can we stop waving through windows and pull one another into the embraces we are missing more than we ever thought possible?

When will things go back to the way they were?

Y’all? They won’t. 

We will not be the same. Even if come June we can mindlessly walk through Target again sipping a latte and smelling candles; even as vacations get rescheduled and postponed events issue new dates; even as we can hold and be held again when this is finally, and blessedly over–we will not be the same. This pandemic has tugged at the very core of our assumptions that we in the United States are above such a thing. This isolation has exposed our hearts and laid bare our deepest worries and fears and insecurities. And it will, I think, take us a while to trust community again.

I believe with all that I am that even in the most awful situations, goodness emerges–even if just eventually, even if only a tiny sliver, even if it is not at all what we imagined. And so, because I trust that somewhere there is goodness at work, my deepest hope is that we will emerge on the other side of COVID-19 having laid waste to life as we know it with these five things now woven into the fabric of our lives:

  1. Deeper humility–we are not, after all, invincible. Not by a long shot. And even the mightiest of us can be brought to our knees by a failed economy, by a virus ravaging our lungs, by a refusal to listen to the greater good and continue our own selfish ways.
  2. Greater intimacy–a friend said today that when this is over, she is going to be hugging everyone she sees. Every. One. All. The. Time. I’ll be right behind her. But even more than that, I wonder if maybe this virus isn’t teaching us about what intimacy really is. Suddenly hour-long and in-depth FaceTime conversations are a “date,” and zoom happy hours make space for conversation about how scared and anxious we all are. This is, despite the fact that we’d rather be in person, an odd blessing.
  3. Real community–y’all, every day I am amazed at how I see very real care and concern for neighbor unfolding across this country. The lie that we care only about ourselves has been given room to riot for a long time, and maybe we just learned to give into it–but not now. Now I see us offering shelter, supporting local businesses with great fervor, asking where we can donate, making time for phone calls and video chats, holding AA meetings and reading stories and offering encouragement online. It’s all completely beautiful.
  4. An appreciation for sacrifice–I am grateful tonight that a chaplain friend of mine, who spent yesterday sleeping off a 25-hour shift, is, safe. I am grateful that another friend, a single mama who I’ve known since our children were in preschool together, and who is an ER nurse, is beginning to emerge from a vicious two-week bout with COVID-19 that has left her shaken beyond measure. I am grateful for grocery store workers and non-profits serving those in need and police officers and doctors and EMT’s and the National Guard and those keeping an especial eye out for victims of domestic violence. Do you see that we owe these people our very lives? Our very civilization? Do you see that we cannot let their sacrifice go unheeded?
  5. A refusal to take anything for granted–I am so fortunate y’all. I work from home. My job is not on the line. I have plenty of head space to help my child with school work when she needs it. And even still I have been unsettled at not being able to find eggs or milk or some other such thing. And even I have spent the better part of a few days alternating tears and prayer at how awful this all feels, at how much I miss our people. And I resolve to never take any of it for granted again.

There is requiem to be sung, prayed, acted, noticed, for what has been lost. And yet, there is hope for what might be.

Even as I offer requiem, I remember that the truth of my faith is that Jesus is with us in all suffering. And because of this I refuse to let grief or pain or fear have the last word. Because never, once, are we truly alone. No matter closed doors and masked faces and the aching for a hand to hold. Never. Alone.

Meanwhile, we are in pain. Meanwhile, we are confused. Meanwhile, we are overwhelmed.

But Easter will come anyway, reminding us that we were made for relationship, and the strength to be found in each other is what gives us hope that light is, after all, shining at the tunnel’s end.

We are losing a great deal, my friends–more than it may seem we can bear.

But maybe–maybe–we will, on this other side of this terror, find a way of being more lovely than we ever thought possible. 














On staying at home.

Y’all, I need to tell you…staying at home sucks. I need to name that aloud today. No rainbows, no kittens, no unicorns, no spin…it sucks.

Maybe you need to name it, too. And if you need permission to do so, consider this post that permission.

It absolutely, completely and totally, is awful. And yes, I know there could be far worse things happening. I know that Anne Frank lived months in a much smaller space than I am. And then of course was killed.

I know that there is blessing to be found in “extra” family time. I know that we are not being asked to ship out to war but to simply batten down the hatches where we are. I know Andy says we have to. I know. I know. I KNOW! (please say that last one to yourself Monica Gellar style).

But I also know it sucks. And we are collectively grieving the loss of so much during this time, and if we don’t name the awfulness, if we don’t just admit it and sit with it, we’ll never find a decent way through it.

There is, right now, a tender and conscious place in my heart for single parents staying at home–the ones who don’t have another adult to, in real life, process the day with over wine or Netflix or ice cream after the kiddos have finally and blessedly gone to bed. For single parents with a significant other in another house, and for split families, where kiddos go back and forth, this whole mess has a entirely different set of complications.

I’m mindful too, of those who are captive to their domestic abuser in these days. Of those whose marriage was already on the rocks and now there is no escape to process or get real, in person, help. Of those who live alone, and perhaps even normally enjoy doing so, but for whom right now it must often feel like burden. I’m mindful of those who are isolated from loved ones, who are medically fragile and so afraid that something will go wrong and there won’t be sufficient medical care. Of those who actually, truly, are out of toilet paper and pasta and milk.

I’m mindful of all high school seniors–but especially Sarah, and Jake and Ella, three seniors who hold their own special place in my heart and who I know are so sad at what they’ve had sacrifice in order to help flatten the damn curve.

I’m mindful of funerals postponed and weddings rescheduled and vacations cancelled and big events rain checked.

And I’m mindful of the sick and the dying. And of those who are risking their own lives to care for them.

Staying at home, living in this virus world, sucks.

Y’all, people are making masks for those who need them. And bourbon distilleries are manufacturing hand sanitizer. This is not a far cry from women rolling bandages during the Civil War. Or factories converting their production to needed equipment during both World Wars. What we’re living is, for us, unprecedented, and we have to name that. We have to absorb how different life is, and stare straight into the face of everything we’re losing.

And we have to mourn that. And feel the pain of it. Because this is–and I truly believe this–the only way we will find it in ourselves to rise up–to freaking RISE UP–and deal with this as only the human spirit as its very finest can–with grace, and strength, and resilience, and commitment to the well-being of all of us.

All. Of. Us.

There is goodness to be found in these hard days, but we can only see the goodness if we are willing to walk right in the pain of it, look around for what we need to learn in the midst of the awfulness, and then figure out how to move forward, knowing that we will never be the same.

No one knows for sure when this will end. What we do know, is that it will end faster if we can all do that rising up, that committing our lives to each other, that looking out for each other.

And maybe that is where we can begin to practice some gratitude. Maybe that’s where we look for what hope might be available as we weather this mighty storm–right in that sweet and sacred spot where we remember once again that we belong to each other.

We belong to each other, y’all. And taking that into our hearts, making it the very fabric of our lives, is how we face COVID-19, and so, are able to walk full into the sunshine again, holding the hands of those we love most, and never taking for granted again what it means to live life together.

I don’t want to live my life at least 6 feet away from you all. Not ever again. So as much as it sucks–and even if you have to hide in the bathroom and cry about it as I have–please, for the sake of all of us, do what must be done.

Because we belong to each other.






We just don’t know yet….

About a month ago, my mom and I built a bed.

By “built a bed,” I mean we unpacked all the parts that the Lowe’s truck delivered in several boxes, and we unfolded and smoothed out the (lengthy!) instructions, and we ordered lattes with extra shots, and then turned up some Eric Church and George Strait and set about putting together a new double-sized platform bed for Curly Girl.

It took four hours. And that isn’t because we made mistakes. Or got lost or took long breaks. It’s because it was tedious. Dear. Lord. was it tedious. There were so many small pieces. And so many parts that had to be put together in certain ways so that other parts could then be brought in. At least 10 times I wanted to give up, especially when the instructions said to do something that just didn’t make sense. I could not for the life of me understand why we were putting together sides before base, or cross pieces before corner pieces. Ugh. There were some bad moments. Also some colorful language.

About midway through the four hours, when we’d once again been surprised by the order of things working out, we decided that from then on, we would not try to figure out what was ahead. We would just do what the instructions said to do and admit that there were just things we did not know yet.

(Side note: My mother and I neither one are big fans of “not knowing yet.” Uncertainty is not our forte.)

But time and time again we’d try to get ahead or guess what was next, and every time we were sorry we had.

We just didn’t know yet.


It’s day 4 of quarantine here in Louisville and already, all around us, there’s talk of what the world will look like on the other side of COVID-19. Of how it will shape us for the next generation. Of how it will change the trajectories of persons and communities and economies. No one’s being asked to fight the Nazis, and so I hesitate to draw too much comparison to active global conflict, but I do think we are in the sort of uncharted, life-changing, destiny-making waters that can most assuredly make us or break us, that will change the face of parts of the world as we know them.

I’d like to think that we will, to a person, heed our better angels and let this transform our lives for good. I’d like to believe that on the other side of this is tremendous blessing because we will have learned once again what it means to depend upon each other for our very lives.

But the truth is that we just don’t know yet. So much is uncertain. And, y’all–my mom and I are not the only ones who don’t do uncertainty well.

What I do know is this: my heart breaks for those who have already lost someone they love to this virus; for those whose livelihoods are at risk; for those who do not have the buffers that I do of a flexible and supportive employer and plenty of food and a comfortable house to quarantine in. My heart breaks for high school seniors watching their best moments slip by; for cancelled weddings; for mom and pop businesses that will not survive; for children for whom no school means academic regression and daily hunger.

My heart breaks, because no matter what happens, lives are being changed minute-by-minute and we simply cannot know where it will all lead.

But I also I know this: that local cable companies are trying to get internet to low income families so they can keep up with schoolwork; that local energy companies are waiving late fees and disconnects; that folks are rallying around cries for diapers and medicine and even food; that celebrities are hosting online “story hours,” putting their skills to good use by reading children’s books so exhausted moms and dads can take a break from their new role as homeschoolers.

What I know is that Mr. Rogers was right and the very best thing we can do in terrifying times, when we just don’t know yet, is to look for the helpers.

And y’all. There are helpers everywhere. 

And there is music being made. And art being imagined. And stories being written. And neighbor helping neighbor.

And if in this horrid, scary, lonely time we discover the truth that we were, after all, built for relationship, and so commit to one another and our communities in new ways, well…I won’t be sad about that. Not even a little.

We just don’t know yet.

And so we go day-by-day, following instructions as they are given, throwing on some good music and maybe drinking a little extra coffee, knowing sometimes it’s gonna be tedious, perhaps spending a little more time on our knees in prayer, and trusting that together, somehow, we will get through this.

Maybe even be better for it.





social media and social distancing.

These COVID-19 days are just beginning in the United States, y’all. And they are already hard. I vacillate between this sort of calm peace of, “Ok, this is what we’re doing now, it’ll be okay,” and utter rage at hand sanitizer hoarders and the arrogance of those who continue to think this isn’t “a big deal.”

Fear is real, even as I fight against it. I worry, even as I know worry is futile, about isolation, about empty grocery shelves, about those who have no access to medical care, about whether or not I’ve unknowingly put someone at risk. Logically, the very best thing to do is follow precautions and hunker down and practice some selflessness. But logic has a frightening way of eluding us in times such as these.

I’ve thought a lot about September 12, 2001, too. Yes–September 12th. That day after our whole country had been ripped apart by planes flying into buildings and everything felt so terrifying and upside down. That day we were at our worst and at our best. Our worst for how so many Muslim families (or anyone who looked Middle Eastern) were targeted with hate and accusation. Our best for how we mostly were kinder, gentler and practiced a little more humility, were more willing to take care of each other and flocked to our houses of worship in droves.

Because, after all, it turns out “it” could happen to us. And it did. Even the mighty United States of America can be brought to its knees, y’all.

Social media is, as you have often heard me say, the very epitome of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it fuels misinformation and stokes division and offers a platform for fear and anger to run rampant. Fake news is actually a thing and social media is riddled with it.

But on the other hand…

On the other hand, my sister and I used it to trade pictures of our daughters quarantine-crocheting yesterday. And my church just used it to call us all together in worship today. I had no idea how much I needed, or how much it would mean to see my pastors/friends reaching well outside their comfort zones to bring us all a word of care and hope. I’ve found myself posting even more, reaching out to folks via text or messaging even more, making sure my phone is charged and hungry for news of how people are doing.

Social media has, in many ways, made us less of a people. But man-oh-man, right now, we have the perfect opportunity to harness it for good.

There is no way, y’all, to get through this well unless we commit to getting through it together. Because the truth is, we are living through something really uncertain and, at least for several decades now, unprecedented.

And yet still life has to go on. Our libraries are closed and the grocery is running low and work schedules are all shot to hell and days off school don’t equal trips to the zoo and House of Boom right now. But still there are tasks to accomplish and mouths to feed and situations to manage. Still, there is living to do.

I know no other way to get through it all than to do so with equal parts patience and kindness and mercy. We must, for the sake of all that is true and good, choose to navigate the unknown landscape of the corona virus, by taking care of each other.

We simply must.

I have a friend whose 20-something daughter is an addict who has now been in recovery for several years. She is married and has a beautiful baby boy and is in nursing school. She’s doing so well. And her dad tells me that during the very dark days of the very worst of her addiction, when they’d had to take her to a recovery facility and leave her there, not knowing if they would ever see her alive again, they adopted these words, “One day at a time.” They survived their grief and fear and pain one day at a time.

One day at a time. 

That’s how we do this, y’all. That’s how we do anything scary and unknown. That’s how we do anything difficult. One day at a time. Trusting that somewhere in the journey there are lessons to be learned and relationships to be made or strengthened, and always, the promise that we are not alone.

One day at a time. Never alone. Full of love and grace. Casting aside fear, so that we can reach beyond it and care for one another in ways we might not have known to before. 

So update that Facebook app, and take a few awesome Insta-pics. But for the love of all that is holy–don’t let these methods of communication be what tears us apart. Instead, channel it all–in fact, channel all that you can, for good. We may well be stronger as individuals, as a community, perhaps even as a nation, on the other side of COVID-19.

And if so? What a story we will have to tell our grandchildren.

One day at a time, y’all. Never alone. Full of love and grace. 

See you soon. ❤





Being seen.

I caught a bit of one of my most favorite movies last night–The Blind Side. There’s about 8 million layers to this story, on the screen and in real life, and so far, every time I’ve watched it, I’ve caught something new to mull about in my head.

Last night the scene where Michael asks Leigh Anne to help him get his driver’s license just wrecked me.

Wrecked. Me.

Leigh Anne’s busy working on a project, and Michael comes up to her home interior design workshop and kinda bashfully interrupts, “Mrs. Tuohy…?”

She stops him cold and says, “Mrs. Tuohy,” is her mama and to please not call her that. He grins, and tries again, asking if she’ll help him get his driver’s license. Now, Leigh Anne’s pretty caught up in the design task in front of her and so she pushes him off with a hasty and somewhat irritated, “Michael, why do you want a driver’s license when you don’t even have a car?”


And then more silence.

And finally Leigh Anne looks up from her fabric and drawings and says, “Ok, Michael. Why do you want a driver’s license?”

“Something to carry around,” he says, so quietly and humbly that if it doesn’t tear at your heartstrings you maybe have ice in your veins. “Something with my name on it,” he adds, again, so quietly and humbly.

“Holy hell,” I said to my friend watching with me, “He just wants to be seen!”

She nodded her head, “Yup.”

Something with my name on it. To carry around. 

To be seen.

I cannot get his words out of my head this morning, “Something with my name on it.”

Y’all, being seen is everything. And this morning I’m thinking about how not being seen, how feeling overlooked, inconsequential, left out, discounted, excluded, can wreak such utter havoc on our lives and our communities.

Feeling unseen breeds a sort of anger and discontent that can destroy a person–or lead them to destroy others. Because hurt people hurt other people, and this has been true since Cain knocked off his brother Abel in Genesis.

Feeling unseen encourages the lie that some lives matter more than others, that the color of our skin, or who we choose to love, or how we vote, or what our bank balance is, or where we live defines us as worthy or not.

Feeling unseen is a cause and byproduct both of bullying, especially among our children. A bully feels her only platform is to ridicule and strike out at others, meanwhile those who receive her sad rage feel themselves as if they must not matter much to anyone.

Feeling unseen, at its worst, leads to extremism, to radicals of all sorts, as those who have, rightly or not, felt as if their voice has no place to be heard force others to hear them–usually violently and at human cost.

Feeling unseen, sometimes, is simply and terribly a perfect host for our own depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm. 

Because the truth is we all, no matter who we are or where we have been or how we behave, just want our name on something.

Y’all, we are in some dark times in this country. This has been true before, and it is true now, and it seems to me that at heart of our discord, at the very center of our screaming and shouting and name-calling and degrading, is that so many of us, in one way or another, do not feel seen. Do not feel we matter. Do not feel counted.

My faith tradition holds powerful stories about this: A lost sheep being relentlessly searched for when 99 are perfectly safe. A reckless and misbehaving brother welcomed home from his stumble into depravity with great pomp and circumstance. A woman of questionable background and decisions who also likely struggled to stay healthy mentally pulled next to Jesus as one of his closest confidants. A tiny little tax collector, despised by just about everyone, told he’d be hosting that same Jesus for dinner.

The unseen–seen. The outcast–brought in. The ne’er-do-wells made whole. 

Find someone who needs seeing, y’all, and let them know they matter.

Trust that you, too, are seen, even if there’s no quantitative proof as such.

Work to see those you’d rather not.

Allow yourself to be seen even when you’d rather not.

This might not, on its own, completely change the game. But it could be the tipping point.



desert prayers.

83799234_2240792596222841_7516243208095924224_nI’ve been in the desert the last few days. Literally.

Full confession, the desert generally does not do much for me. It feels…well, like a desert. Abandoned. Barren. Lonely. Even the constant sun gets to me after a while. Does anyone need that bright of a light shining all the dang time?

But if you’re going to go to the desert, a good time to do so is when a long and grey and cold and wet Kentucky February is seeping a little too much into your bones, all the way into your heart, making it almost hard to breathe fully because everything feels so closed in.

Work sent me to the desert, specifically to a retreat center across the way from Camelback Mountain, just outside Phoenix. Franciscans founded and run the center. It’s modest in many ways, and the coffee situation (as in, the lack of good coffee) sometimes makes me wonder if they really believe in God there, but, on the upside, the chef is excellent and the grounds kept beautifully.

Yesterday morning, I had a while before I needed to be anywhere, and so, caffeine headache in full tilt, I threw on leggings and a warm sweatshirt to stumble over to the little nave where coffee is kept, knowing I’d be disappointed, but also desperate (sidenote: I think powdered creamer probably makes baby Jesus cry).

The sun was beginning to creep up over the mountains, the air was cool and dry, and I wasn’t into heading inside again just yet, so, mediocre coffee in hand, I went for a walk, and I did so trying for an open mind about what beauty might await me in the desert.

Turns out the first golden rays of sunlight reflecting off budding cacti is actually quite lovely. So is the moon in a completely clear sky, fading into full transparency up over the mountains as it gives way to daylight. And desert rocks lining a well kept path through desert flora and fauna make for a pretty peaceful morning. Remember, it’s a Franciscan center, and so along the way I found icons, scripture verses embedded on stone there and there, and prayer prompts of various sorts.

And then I stumbled on the labyrinth (a prayer walk, really, in every day language), morning sun shining on it just right, so that all around it there this sort of glow, the edges gilded with sunlight’s gold, all of it drawing you in, inexplicably and determinedly. Whoever plotted that labyrinth either knew exactly what they were doing, or (and perhaps and), something holy was at work in its creation, because it leaves no doubt you are on sacred ground.

I took a deep breath. Forced some stillness and quiet into my being, and entered the labyrinth, doing my best to walk slowly, purposefully, calling to mind as I did the things that are wearing on my soul these days.

Eventually, I came to the center, and found there an altar of sorts. Built up of smooth stone it was covered in talismans of prayer, some of them no more than a name or a hope or a desire written on one of the stones: “a healed heart,” “peace,” “forgiveness,” “Maria,” “James….” I found a chip from Alcoholics Anonymous at this altar, and wondered if it had been offered in thanksgiving for sobriety or as a prayer for someone in need of recovery. I found a little package of Oreos, and thought it perhaps the favorite food of a lost loved one. I found prayers for the Pope, little crosses, rosary beads, smlal toys, even a few loose bills tucked among the stones.

We talk a lot about “falling to our knees in prayer” in the Church. And generally, unless you attend a church with kneeling benches, that is a figurative phrase, but y’all, for the first time in a long time, I literally fell to my knees in the middle of the desert, this odd and wondrous little altar calling me, and though I had no physical talismans of the prayers I left there, left them I did, the sore and weary places inside me joining the prayers laid out before me.

I sat there for a while. Quiet. Breathing. Trying to take in the heartache and joy both expressed among the stones, trying to make sense of why it was speaking to me so clearly.

And in the end, as I reluctantly walked away, all I could really fathom is that what tugged at me was truth that we have, in this world, forgotten our common humanity. We have chosen to believe the lies that some of us are better than others, that some of us matter more than others. We have given in to polarization and division. We have let those who profit off these things tell us how to live our lives, instead of reaching deep inside the holiest parts of who we are and recognizing that the God-shaped hole in my heart is not any different than the God-shaped hole in another’s. We are all, in one way or another, searching frantically for security, for community, for belonging.

Whether we choose to admit it or not, we are all searching frantically to believe the truth that no matter who we are or where we have been we are beloved.

I’ll write that again: No matter who we are or where we have been we are beloved.

Near as I can tell, scattered with careful intention across the stones at the center of that labyrinth were the deepest prayers of human beings just like you and me. The people who laid those prayers there—I have no idea if they were Protestant or Catholic, black or white or brown, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican. Moreover, I don’t need to have such an idea…because whoever those prayers came from, they came from children of God.

I know, y’all, I know. This is not an easy truth. Hate and distrust and miscommunication and tribalism are so, so easy right now. It feels good to wrap ourselves in those just like us, makes us feel less alone, like we have that belonging we’re searching for. But the real truth is that we belong to each other…all of us. And making the conscious choice to do the work that helps us remember this is unabashedly difficult. Impossible, even, some days, it seems.

It is also our only way forward. And, so, where our greatest hope is to be found.

We were not made to tear each other apart. We were made to belong to one another. And so as I fly back east today, I am carrying in my heart desert prayers, trusting that in the madness and chaos around us all, God is still at work, and that out of all that threatens to destroy, something whole and beautiful and redemptive might be trying to make itself known.

For all of us.





When my Curly Girl was 5 or 6, one of her greatest pleasures was pushing her own cart at Trader Joe’s. “I can have my own, Mommy?” she would ask, and I’d smile, pull a little red TJ’s kiddie cart out for her and tell her to put a few things in it.

Full confession, I did so begrudgingly–because it was more work for me to keep up with her unwieldy carting and my own grocery shopping. Without fail, there would be a minor collision in the produce aisle. Because it is hard–so hard–when you are in kindergarten and are trying to push a cart as big as you and also be aware of everything and everyone around you. Right?

It’s always been an important thing for me to be able to teach her awareness. “Slow down kiddo,” I say when we come up behind an elderly person moving slowly, “We can wait.” “Watch out for those around you,” I say when she’s pushing a now full-size grocery cart, but looking at the gazillion cereal choices on the shelves instead of the path in front of her. “Do not look at your phone while you’re walking,” I admonish. “Pay attention, baby,” I say all the time, when we’re in a crowded place, or travelling, or moving forward in a line.

She’ll tell you I’m strict (I’m okay with this). And often what I’m telling her is, of course, a needed reminder to me as well, as my brain is generally full of far more things than is helpful or necessary.

But mostly, I want her to learn the practice of awareness–aware of people, location, behavior, weather, danger…all of it. Because mostly, I think, life is hard. And it is too chaotic. And sometimes it just hurts us or wears us out. And so we retreat inward, the thoughts or tasks that are right in front of us becoming all-consuming.

We miss things when this happens. 

Last weekend, I was privy to a group conversation that touched on some difficult topics–in particular, topics that can sometimes trigger the place in my soul where I tend to grief and pain. It was a safe conversation, with caring people involved, and so I was fine–just not very talkative.

Two days later, I got a text from a friend who was also part of the conversation, a friend who has known me for 13 years and so knows more than a bit about my life. “I just wanted to check on you,” she said, “because I know we talked about some difficult things and I just wanted to see if you are okay.”


Now, my friend is a therapist, specifically with trauma-informed training, plus she’s just generally an empathetic person. She has skills. Gifts.

But still…. Aware.

Aware that someone in the room might be reliving some pain. Aware that we all have our stories and sometimes those stories come to light in painful ways. Aware of the ways life beats us up and how that beating pervades our very beings.


Yesterday, my Uncle Matt posted on social media something his sister once wrote, “Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about who needs a casserole.”

Pithy, sure. An effective tweet. But also? A call to awareness.

  • Who around you might be in pain today?
  • Who do you know who needs checking on?
  • Where will you be today that might call for you to look and listen just a bit more intentionally?
  • What person in your life, even if marginally, might need a casserole?

How, today, can you practice awareness?

We live in a bubble of social media hot takes and supposed newsworthy sound bytes these days–an isolating narrative of our own making that does nothing to foster our best humanity. And we are, most of the time, blissfully unaware of what might be at work in those around us, never mind global conflict and suffering.

And I am confident–confident, y’all–that if we practiced less judgment and control and  certainty and more compassion and awareness and listening, we could, collectively, move the needle of our communities and our country towards a way of being that would make space for such desperately needed healing and wholeness.

It isn’t, after all, all about me. Or you. It’s about all of us. And when one of us is not okay, the very best thing would be for the rest of us to practice a little awareness and start making casseroles. 





LEGOs. And life.

If you know me in real life even a little bit, you have likely experienced that I am infamous for losing my keys.

And by “losing,” I mean just this general unknowing of where they are at any given moment. I don’t actually leave them in mass transit or restaurants or what have you.

And…YES. I’ve tried the basket by the door. The hook in the kitchen. The “always” putting them back in the same purse pocket. I’ve tried laying them on top of the microwave, or my dresser, or my desk. I’ve tried it all. Believe me.

Once, someone even gave me an electronic device that would supposedly help me keep up with them. Spoiler alert: that did not work either.

I have to tell you, at 44 years old, the chances of me finding a way to prevent the morning cry of, “Gah! Where are my keys?!?” are getting real slim.

Look I get it–it must be annoying if you’ve lived with me or worked with me or even gone on vacation with me–but the thing is? It just is.

It’s just how I’m built, y’all.

I was talking to a friend the other day who struggles mightily with feeling different from those around him–and not just different, but like something is wrong with him, like maybe he’s broken. First of all, we’re all broken in one regard or another. But second of all, this person’s brain does work a bit different than most folks…but I’ll you this…he always, and I mean always, knows where his keys are.

“You know,” I said to him recently, “this is just how you’re built. It’s like you’re your own set of LEGOs…and this is what YOUR set came with.”

Y’all know what I mean by that, right? You’ve seen a box of LEGOs…not the random pieces you can free-build with, but the sets. Star Wars. Harry Potter. Volkswagens. Ships. Castles. Construction zones. Entire scenes to imagine as you build, the right pieces given to you in little bags inside the box.

Work with me here, because the metaphor isn’t perfect, but if I were a little LEGO bag, part of a 1000-plus piece set, there’d be nary a sign of keys. Hopefully, another person’s bag would have them. Or another person. I’m imagining something like the Lego Advent calendars here: Over 24 days you can construct an entire Christmas wonderland with each daily bag of LEGOs. But you have to have each bag, otherwise the scene isn’t complete. You have to do them all, otherwise you end up with Hogwarts without a Dumbledore presiding over the Yule feast. Or the Millennium Falcon wishing the Ewoks a Merry Christmas without Han. Or an intricate ice-skating scene without, I don’t know…skaters!

You have to have all the little bags to make it work. You have to have all the little sets within the big set.

Please tell me you know where I’m going with this….

You have to have all the people. All the gifts. All the ways of being. All the strengths and weaknesses. All the good and the bad and the ugly of every single living, breathing one of us to make real community, real life, real partnership, real anything at all work.

You gotta have the girl who never knows where her keys are, but who, I promise you, remembers names. And stories. And significant dates.

And you gotta have the guy who always knows where his keys are, and is insanely and beautifully calm in crisis, even if he could not tell you what he ate for breakfast that morning.

You have to have the builders. And the dreamers. And the planners. And the visionaries.

You have to have someone to ask the pragmatic questions, and someone who doesn’t care one whit about what’s practical or not. You have to have the numbers people, and the ones who can get 5 from 2 plus 2.

You have the poor and the rich right up alongside one another. The outcast and the queen bee stuck in the same line.

Let me push deeper here for a second, y’all…because yes, we arrive to this life just as we are, in many, many ways. I was born with a genetic marker for celiac disease. Nothing I did to deserve it or develop it. It just is.

But also…life forms us; shapes us; pushes against us and tears us apart and makes us whole again (maybe a bit differently, than we once were, but still, at heart, us).

Under my daughter’s bed is a giant bin full of LEGOs. They are mostly no longer specific sets. No longer sealed little bags with a certain scene in mind. They are pieces and parts from a hundred scenes gathered over the years, some of them marked and separated into Ziploc baggies, others of them loose. And man-oh-man…the things that can be imagined with it all! All the LEGOs, come together, into something else entirely.

And this is maybe the very best LEGO set of them all….

Because, we are who we are. And your LEGO set and mine came with different pieces. And maybe you’ve even put it all together perfectly near as you can tell.

But even still…yours needs mine. And mine needs yours.

Yours needs mine. And mine needs yours. 

ALL the LEGOs, to build and to be what we were…what we are…meant to be.






When Chewie cried.

(SPOILER ALERT!Do not read this if you plan to see Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and are making every effort to avoid spoilers. You’ve been warned.)

“Exactly how many blogs do you have jumping around in your head right now?” he asked, as we left the theater on New Year’s Eve, my eyes red from crying, and both of us feeling surreal and tender at the 40-year saga we’d just seen come to an end.

“So many I don’t even know where to start,” was my quiet answer, as quotes and scenes from Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker flashed through my head and heart. I was struggling to reenter the real world after having gotten so caught up in George Lucas’ imaginary one.

Look, as you likely know, there are All. The. Opinions. regarding how it all wrapped up. Everything from, “That was perfection!” to “What a waste of money!” and anything in-between. Because of course there are a few plot holes here and there. And it’s hard to walk away without questions. And folks tend to think it was just exactly on point emotionally or that it was simply an opportunity for GenXer’s to wax nostalgic.

I don’t care about any of that. Have your opinion…because, as you might guess, what follows is mine–at the heart of which is my bias that it was, in fact, a beautiful ending to one of the greatest overarching stories of all time.

There are three things that define Rise of Skywalker for me. Three things that connected it to “real life,” in such a profound way for me that I have not been able to shake them.

FIRST THING: “We had each other. That’s how we won.” Lando Calrissian says this to a discouraged resistance fighter at a pivotal moment. Those rising up against the First Order are tired. Scared. They’ve lost so much as they’ve continued to fight Emperor Palpatine’s evil and things are looking pretty bleak. “How did you do it?” he asks Lando, referring to the glory days of Princess (now General!) Leia and Han Solo and Luke Skywalker and their defeat of Darth Vader. And quietly and determinedly, Lando answers, “We had each other.”

We have forgotten this, y’all. Lost sight of the very real truth that deep in our bones we are starved for real relationship, and have forgotten what it means to nurture trust and respect. We hide behind our social media screens, the supposed anonymity giving us the false courage born of carefully crafting our snark and hot takes. We believe whatever click bait or biased information we see, as along as it affirms our own beliefs. We draw lines in the sand between “us and them” with startling speed and inhumanity, failing to actually listen to one another’s stories or sense one another’s pain, pitting ourselves tribe against tribe in ways that are destroying the very core of who we are.

To be sure, there is evil at work, and goodness must always take a stand against evil–but goodness does not ever win without listening. Without some effort at understanding. Without patience. Without acknowledging how very much alike we all are. Without loving…loving…loving–without condition, restraint, or demand. We have each other. And we have to find a way to remember this, to carve it into our souls, to set aside our own agendas, our own fears, long enough to work towards some glimmer of common good.

SECOND THING: My friend Cathe talks a lot about “the fullness of time” — this idea that where we are in any particular moment is not the end, that there is so much we don’t know at work, and that, in fact, we might not get to see “the end,” whatever that is, but we can be sure there will be one…and, that, it will be very, very good. Because, always, in the fullness of time, Love. Wins.

Y’all, Ben Kenobi didn’t get to see the final, ugly, and blessed end of the First Order, at least, not on the mortal side of eternity. Neither did Han Solo. And though she came very close, knew it was just within reach, neither did General Leia Organa. These giants of the Star Wars story, these heroes of generations of those who had been abused and controlled and made afraid by forces of evil…they gave their entire lives to the cause only to die before their work came to full fruition in the full hearts and clear eyes of those they’d inspired…trained up…empowered to do the work after they were gone.

And the new guys: Rey and Poe and Finn and BB8, with some careful guidance of the old guys along the way, they did it. They finished the fight. They completed the work begun so long before they were even born, and, in doing so, paved the way for a new way of being for everyone who will come after them. They shattered evil, and they ushered in a sort of hope that reminds you anything really is possible.

In the fullness of time, I believe, good is always at work. Always. And so perhaps it is our jobs, to, while we’ve got our little time on earth, to use the gifts we’ve been given, whatever they might be, to usher that good along as best we can, even if with painful steps and slow.

THIRD THING: The entire heart of this movie, everything I’ve already written, everything I felt as the credits rolled, everything I still feel 5 days later, is nested in the moment when Chewie cried. 

That courageous and precious Wookie, his grief over Leia’s death tore me apart. Those sobs, they were the sobs of a creature lost in despair, his heart ripped open at knowing his dear and faithful comrade was gone. His cries were the cries of a whole world on fire, deep, guttural, heart-wrenching cries that can, I think, only really be understood by those who have faced a night not sure how they’ll get to the next morning. By someone who has lost the kind of loved one he’d just lost. By someone who has known the sort of heartache that brings you to your knees on the kitchen floor, not sure how anything will ever be okay again.

When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish the truth of all our broken hearts–the reality of how possible it is for this life we live to break us.

When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish my own heartache over our own world on fire.

When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish my own griefs and heartbreaks.

When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish the cries of an entire world begging for something good, something true, something grace-full.

When Chewie cried, I heard in his anguish what it means to think that all is finally and completely lost.

Only…it wasn’t. And Chewie rose out of his grief to join his friends in their victory. He lived to see “the fullness of time.” He made it to the other side of the Emperor’s darkness. He was not alone–not in his grief and not in his rising. They had each other.

They had each other. 

And in this perfect gem of a truth they found their salvation, their lives, their hope.

I cannot help but wonder what our communities, our nation, our world would look like if we could remember this truth, too. 





Christmas fudge and slivers of light.

IMG_2622First, you need to know one thing: my Aunt Janet makes the world’s best fudge. 

You may think you know someone else who does. You may think you know a little shop that does. I’m sorry, but you do not. Unless you know my Aunt Janet, and are on her Christmas fudge mailing list, you have not yet had the world’s best fudge. Full stop.

Beyond its deliciousness, its perfect consistency and flavor, my favorite part of her Christmas fudge is that it gets sent every year in some adorable little tin she’s collected along the way.

The fudge used to arrive at my parents’ address, wherever that happened to be. The last few years, it has arrived at my house. Partly because that’s where the whole family eventually landed, but also, I suspect, because last year she was not going to send it, trying to respect some family health concerns (everyone is fine–no worries). I got wind of this and shot off the fastest email you ever saw, begging her to reconsider, that I simply could not “do Christmas,” without her fudge. I’m pretty sure that’s why this year, two days ago in fact, the fudge arrived. At my house. In a lovely little red tin with Santa on it. And after sampling One. Little. Piece. I tucked it away in the back of the fridge until the rest of my family can enjoy it too. I’m good like that. (Really I’m afraid they’d do bodily harm if I did not.)

For as long as I have memory, Aunt Janet’s fudge has arrived somewhere around the third week of Advent. And while I really, really, really enjoy the taste of it, I love what it represents even more.

My aunt prays for me regularly. She prays for many people regularly, and with a steadfast, unshakeable faith. She is also one of the most gracious people I know. She knows what grit is, I can tell you that for sure, and she loves so very deeply.

Real talk: the holidays are not easy for me, and that has been true for a few years now. Still, the heart of who I am as a person of faith rests in the truth of the Christmas story, because I believe with everything I am that there was, and still is, something profoundly powerful and redemptive and salvific about the birth of Jesus. I believe that God hard-wired us for the kind of love expressed in the Gospels, and that in such love and relationship lies tremendous hope.

This year, on the back of our little family of two’s Christmas card (which I have not mailed yet…gah!), I had printed an excerpt from the words to a song sung by Indigo Girls. I’ve shared them below (and I highly recommend you find it online and listen to it in full):

One tiny child can change the world
One shining light can show the way
Beyond my tears for what I’ve lost
There’s still my joy
There’s still my joy
For Christmas day
There’s still my joy for Christmas day

Which is to say…I am not the only one for whom the holidays are not easy. In fact, for many folks they are much harder. And the “merry and bright,” all around us can make it seem even more difficult. And…we live in a very dark, and very angry, and very chaotic, and very scary world. Also full stop. And our hearts get broken, and our lives get shattered, and so much does not turn out the way we intended, or planned or hoped.

But also…just like it has my whole life long, Aunt Janet’s fudge, made with more love, I am sure, than I even realize…shows up. And in such a small and yet simply everything gift I find light enough to remember that we are so loved. And that all around us, if we’ve eyes to see it, pulses that light enough–in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places and sometimes in the most unlikely ways.

There’s still my joy. In hands held, and songs sung, and prayers whispered and stories shared and the pure grace the girl-child in my house brings to this life.

Last night was the longest night of the year, y’all. From here on out, every day, light wins the battle against darkness. And I promise you, somewhere, light is shining, even if through the tiniest sliver. Look for it. Wait for it. Trust that it will come. As reliable as Aunt Janet’s fudge is, this light, it is so much more so. It is everything.

And it came into the world, this light, full of life, so that you and I might have life, too.