Do you know what the hardest thing about fasting is? It’s not the hunger. It’s the ache.

A few years ago I felt led to start fasting along with my prayer. I remember reading that verse in the gospel of Mark where the disciples privately ask Jesus why they could not cast out the demon from the little boy with an unclean spirit. He says, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

This kind.

When you’re all out of ideas and strategies and strength – maybe it’s This kind.




My son wanted a pet. And since a new lizard or puppy or pet squirrel (you read that right) was out of the question, he wanted a cat.

So we went to our local Humane Society and got the only kitten they had at the time. He was found walking lost down the street of a local town. But it didn’t show. He was just perfect. He cuddled up right away. His eyes were soft and friendly. He was one of the family. My son named him Charlie.

It was the best of times.

Who said cats are not social? You can literally hear Charlie purr across the room when one of his humans is holding him. He greets us with a kiss when we get home. He plays fetch with us – we call him our Canine Cat. He comes to us when we call him by name. And he follows my son around the house like, well, a little dog. He brings us all together in a shared mission of joy.

It was the age of wisdom. The epoch of belief. The season of light. The spring of hope.

But when I look into Charlie’s inviting eyes, I remember another kitten, Moses.

We found this frightened little creature under our back porch. We guessed he was abandoned by his mother, but we couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe she was in an urgent hurry to escape danger. But the fear of danger never left little Moses’s eyes.

It was the worst of times.

My daughter who is trained to work with victims of trauma coaxed Moses out of hiding with her patient and gentle ways. There may have been a little food too. She befriended him, but I don’t think Moses ever really trusted her implicitly.

We visited with him daily. We gave him food and water. Once my son brought him a fish he caught in the river. Moses briefly rejoiced over this gift, but he disappeared with it under the porch. We brought him into our sunroom, although he mostly just stared at us from the corner.

He was vigilant. Always. His eyes were scared, untrusting. He was ever on guard. He never purred. He had a wild look about him.

We gave him a little bed in our garage because it was a very cold winter that year. And for all his wildness, he needed no training to use the litter box. He was most polite and civilized in that way. But you could never get him to relax. To cuddle. To purr.

We thought all our love and longings would be enough to domesticate this forsaken feline. It was our shared mission of grief.

But it was the age of foolishness. The epoch of incredulity. The season of darkness. The winter of despair.

And one day, Moses just disappeared. He was last seen creeping out of our garage early in the morning. But he never came back.

When we were adopting Charlie, I told the lady at the Humane Society about our once feral cat. She nodded knowingly and said that some lost cats seem to always carry their ghosts with them.

That’s it exactly. That describes Moses.

Recently my youngest daughter (whom we adopted from a Chinese orphanage) asks, “Why is Charlie so nice?” (She’s comparing him to Moses, I think.) “Did he have a nice mom?” she asks slowly and carefully and hesitantly.

That’s a tough one. Because I’m not sure what’s behind that question.

Because people are a little like cats. They carry their wounds with them. And sometimes those scars make them hard to approach, frightened, skittish even.

And even the nicest mom in the world might not be enough if she doesn’t get to nurture her little one through the earliest months. Even the nicest mom may leave some ghosts to carry in that case.

Continue reading “A TALE OF TWO KITTIES”


hope in the middle

I was asked to share a little of my story with some women at my church the other day.

Darn, I thought. I wish she would have asked me six months from now instead. Then some of my stuff would be resolved. I’d have a real story to tell…then.

But you see, I’m still in the Middle. So many loose ends to tie up.

I really think the speech therapy and special tutoring my youngest daughter is receiving will have kicked in by then. And my adult daughter with disabilities will probably have a job by then – that should be a good story…a happy ending. And I think my other child’s future should be clearer, and we’ll have the results from the tryout for my third….

If only she’d asked me in six months.

But instead I’m here with a half story. Still waiting.

And I hear a door slam somewhere in my house, and I’ve got a text from my daughter to please pray, and I don’t think my son is working on his homework yet, and my husband is still processing the same work problem.

And I’m still in the Middle.

But I remember a story someone told me 30 years ago in her small London kitchen as we were washing up the dishes after dinner. It challenges me to rethink the Middle.

Continue reading “HOPE IN THE MIDDLE”



word art 2

I’m already thinking about what I will put on the walls of my children’s bedrooms when we move. (After, that is, we get our house ready to sell, put it on the market, successfully sell it, and find and purchase a new house. Then.)

I’m planning Word Art.

I love this new Word Art craze. I could never draw anything thing worth displaying, but Words have decorated my mind from my earliest days.

Words are just so powerful.

Last summer my oldest brother took my 13 year old son backpacking. At some point my brother, noting Paul’s strengths, put his hand on his shoulder and said with manly emphasis, “You are damn efficient, Paul” He has never forgotten it.

Continue reading “A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME”



I’m having house problems. But that’s not the half of it.

We have been thinking about moving to the other side of town for some time now. There are many good reasons. That’s where our church, school, and many of our friends are.

And, believe it or not, we need to Up-Size. While most of my peers are transitioning to smaller homes now that their children are grown up, we actually need an additional bedroom to accommodate one of our adult daughters. (I have a complicated family. Did I mention that?)

So like many other homeowners who are hoping to sell, we have been trying to catch up with all the tasks we should have been doing over the last, say, 15 years or so. Cleaning closets, purging, touching up here and there.

It’s taking forever.

But like I said, that’s not the half of it.

Last night I felt a wave of anxiety. Not about my house — although that seems like a good metaphor. But about my Home. My family. My complicated family.

We are in the midst of making some changes to meet the needs of our children, and hopefully make some progress in some necessary areas. And while it all looks good on paper, the reality is starting to sink in, and I wonder, what if this doesn’t work?

So this morning I took it all to God. Poured out my heart. Asked for wisdom. Asked for faith.

And this is what he said.

Continue reading “THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT”



My adult daughter with disabilities tells me she’s frustrated this morning. And most mornings.

In all fairness, life isn’t working out for her the way she’d hoped. And with her paralyzed way of thinking – a mix of realism with an inflexible planning mechanism – she can’t see how it could ever get better. She’s about to graduate from college with honors, but knows her lack of social skills will probably land her in menial labor.

Continue reading “READ. PRAY. TRUST. WALK.”



For all the flak I’ve given modern education over the years, I have to admit, they’ve got something. My children attend a Christian school where the academic content is traditional, but the methods are shaped by “best practices” and a gentle respect for human development. And I’m so glad.

I went to my fifth grade daughter’s parent-teacher conference yesterday, and her teacher’s approach to educating was so refreshing, I had to pinch myself.

Her teacher shows me her most recent math test. There are lots of marks on the page, but I know what a struggle math is for my daughter, and I know she’s making progress….

But he quickly tells me not to worry, saying, “She actually made the same mistake over and over, and so I’m going to reteach the concept to her and let her redo it. But you’ll see she did a lot right.” Earlier this year he told me that a bad test result was not a mark against the student, but was information for the teacher. It showed the teacher where he needed to explain more or better.

Really? Since when? When I was growing up, a test was the final evaluation. A strike on the paper was a strike against the student. It shouted out, This is who you are. Too bad.

Continue reading “WHEN I DON’T MAKE THE GRADE”



Talking to a friend, and processing a situation in her life. Tough one. Lots of nuances of desire.

“Let’s pray for wisdom,” I suggest.

“Not sure I want it,” she replies cautiously, in a moment of raw honesty.

And in that reply I see the history of my own heart.

Kind of knowing what is right in my gut, but not really liking the implications. When I say I want wisdom, I usually mean I want to know the future. I want specific information that will lead to my own settled happiness. But God’s version of wisdom is not as neat.

If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, the aversion to acquiring it is certainly the beginning of something else.



img_1040I’ve been thinking about the future. It’s that time of year. Looking ahead.

This year I’m especially thinking about My future…what I should do with the Time.

Since I am no longer the sole educator of my children, I’m wondering what might be next. Maybe nothing… but maybe Something. Who knows.

I was talking to my daughter about an Idea. Playing with a vision. Processing. You know….

What do you think? Can you see it?

She’s quiet.

Do you think I could do it?

She tilts her head. I think you’d be good at it…while you’re weak. But if you ever get strong, you’d be awful. You don’t do Arrogant well.

Well, that’s why God gives us daughters. They’re the only ones who can say such things and get away with it.

Probably right.

But I can’t stay sad forever,  I tell her.

She smiles. Sadness is your strength. You’re at your best when you weak. Unsure of yourself. You give the best advice when you’re There.

Well, that explains a lot.

Like this past Christmas Day.

Continue reading “THE NEW STRONG”



I heard on the radio that the first week of Advent is about “Hope.” But Hope deferred makes the heart sick, so maybe Advent is really about Heart Sickness.

Every year we sit around our dinner table and light the candles and sing that perennial Advent song.

O, come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom Captive Israel,

That mourns in lowly exile here, Until the Son of God appears….

Kind of mournful. Makes me quiet.

And we open our Advent book that starts in the Garden. And quickly leaves the Garden in pieces.

That pretty much sums it up. That’s where we live. Outside the Garden. Outside the way things were supposed to be.

This year our Advent began in darkness. As it usually does. Kids bickering. Parents struggling. Stress building. Hopes flagging.

Outside the Garden.

But lucky for me, Christmas came early this year. Back in September God gave me a precious Gift. A Word. Best kind of Gift.

Continue reading “THE SEASON OF HOPE – LESS”