Tomorrow we meet with docs to see if Abe can be listed for a heart transplant.  If you’d told me six months ago that I’d be spending my spring researching organ transplant hospitals and possible schools in each area, I’d tell you to get lost.  I’m no closer to housing options in any location.  Stanford is prohibitively expensive, Houston is full of black mold (and don’t try to convince me otherwise) and every available rental house in Ann Arbor has six small bedrooms and a kitchen that looks like a meth lab.  Nothing is 9000 and therefor, nothing is ideal.  But I’m putting the cart before the horse, as per usual.  First we have to meet with another Dr. Lee tomorrow and staple Abe’s undies to the table so he lays still for his echocardiogram and then we will talk.  Talk and ask questions and continue our information gathering.  Continue this quest to get our boy a heart as quickly as possible and in a way that sucks the least for all of us.  Until then life grinds on, as it always does.  There are kids thumbing their noses at the dinners I make and Abe practicing his name on Dan’s gorgeous cedar brackets outside and I’m still positive my last words will be, “Maggie, take a bite.”  Sometimes I’m stunned that it all doesn’t just grind to a halt when I think of the precipice we are balancing on.  Driving Lulu to an appointment yesterday led to a discussion on how organ donation works and included words like harvesting and coolers.  There was a lesson about the difference between brain dead and actually dead which was vague at best since I’m cloudy on the difference myself. But the part that was crystal clear to her was the someone-has-to-die-for-abe-to-get-a-heart part.  It pulled her sweet mouth into a perfect O as it sunk in and my eyes filled to think about it.  Peter for his part, doesn’t care about any details other than the possibility of temporarily paralyzed vocal chords post-op. If he could, he’d skip the transplant and possible moving part and just jump right to the part where Abe can’t talk.  Especially now when Abe has spent the last few days becoming progressively more dysregulated at the looming appointment and has defaulted into asinine question mode.  Questions including, but not limited to: what is it called when you wake up and eat? (breakfast) am I going to miss school? (for the millionth time, yes) is dog food made of dogs? (no, it’s made of kids who asked too many questions).
So we soldier on, knowing that we hold nothing to the pain and indecision that millions of other people face.  No one has died, we aren’t Syrian, we have plenty of food.  Yes, the dogs tear up my packages, but I as long as they don’t eat the packing slip, I can always find the contents in the yard.  This is a first world problem.  Every single problem I have is a luxury for most of the world.  And so, while I’m definitely not killing it, I’m not doing too shabbily either, all things considered.  As long as the teachers are willing to overlook that no one is bringing snow pants anymore because they are washed and stored and this cannot be reversed until next winter (CANNOT) we are good.  And if I’ve defaulted to basically forcing all the kids to get hot lunch so I don’t have to build sandwiches, well, that probably won’t kill anyone.  ‘Cept the mini chicken corn dog nuggets.  No one should be eating that crap.  It’s like the turducken of hot lunches.  Nope.
Happiest Almost Weekend y’all.  We’re nearly there.  It’s April 18 and the water truck will be here in two weeks and this time next week I’ll be laying me down to sleep in a yurt in KY, but tonight it’s snowing because Michigan done lost his mind, that bastard.  And we’ve nearly made it.  There is sun coming; I know this because I have refreshed my weather app like an addict. It’s coming.  But first there will be this appointment for our boy and I know God will show up.  Know it like I know there is oxygen enough for all of us in this house we never want to leave.  Waiting to bear witness to it, because it’s gonna be good.  And I’ll tell you all about it because

this is me being real.


dear younger me 6.

Dear Younger Me, sometime in your mid 20’s you will have a crisis period.  It won’t be a nervous breakdown exactly, so you will name it “the episode” but you won’t capitalize it, because that’s giving it too much head.  It will find you leaving the teaching job you love and becoming agoraphobic.  You will spend your days listening to relaxations tapes and wondering how you’ll ever possibly be ok again.  You will leave countless full carts near the check out when someone hems you in from behind and all you can think to do is escape to your car and do your deep breathing exercises.  You will think about dying often, but you won’t be suicidal.  It’ll be more that you can’t imagine how you can live like this forever because you will daily buy the lie that this will never get better.  You will become a shell of yourself and will lay awake nights waiting for the crack that will never come.  You will find Jesus in the Japanese soaking tub in your little farm house, right there in the pages of the Psalms and all the stories you’ve been told by lip and flannelboard will come to life and you will believe.

The terminus of this dark time will be that you will throw yourself wholly into getting pregnant, something you’re not entirely sure is the best idea, but which you feel you’re supposed to do anyway.  You won’t tell a soul because you’ll be terrified that they will look at you with soft eyes and say, are you sure that’s the best idea right now? And that when they do, your uterus will shrivel up and dry and you will never have babies.  So you will get quietly pregnant, with no fanfare or advice asked or given.  You will find out for certain after you are sick sick on your alaskan cruise and your first thought will be joy, but it will be followed closely by terror.  The Zoloft that is keeping you sane, surely that isn’t good for your baby?  This nugget of fear will take root and will grow a terror tree so big you get lost in it’s branches. You won’t wait to find a clever way to tell Dan because he will read it on your face when he gets home from work.  Shortly after, you will be at your parent’s cottage, watching a show with your nieces and nephews and the news story of a woman who had a psychotic break with reality and drowned all her babies in the tub will come on and you will kiss those soft heads and excuse yourself from the room and you will run to the beach and fall on your knees and cry out to Father.  You will ask him for a sign that you won’t be that woman, that you won’t do that terrible thing to this baby.   You will listen to the waves and you will wish they would swallow you up.  But instead you will surrender to the Father who promises to keep even the sea under his foot.  You will put yourself there too.  It’s safe there, you’re pretty sure.

The very next day, you will drive your black Jetta to a new doctor, trembling like the leaf you are, still praying for that sign.  A kind, so kind woman named Sally will check you in.  Behind her on the wall will be a clock with the name Zoloft on it, all in black.  This, and the assurances from your new doctor that the Zoloft will not harm your baby in any way, will be like the softest balm on a blistered hurt.  Joy will chop that fear tree right down and will take root in it’s place.  You will find that joy is always stronger if you’ll let it be. You will grow that boy run your tummy like it’s what you were born to do because it’s actually what you were born to do.  Those dark days of the episode will recede into the past and you will wear strength and peace as your favorite outfit.  They look so good on you, fit you so well.

You will push for two and a half hours and then the doc will say that she needs to use forceps.  You will remember seeing a picture in a book of forceps and how it scared the snot out of you.  The thought of your baby’s head being squeezed in those metal tongues will give you superhuman strength and you will push that baby out and she will say, it’s a boy, and you and dan will both cry and look at each other in wonderment.  This boy, he will make you a mother and in doing so, will show you your purpose in life.  Not your only purpose, not even the most important purpose, but one of your favorite.  You will take to mothering like a duck to water.  You will play by all the rules at first, recording all his feeds and diapers on the chart the nurse gave you, even when your wise sisters tell you to just follow your instinct.  You will have no faith in instinct at first, but soon it will become your constant companion and you will eat, sleep and breathe this mothering thing.  The middle of the night feedings will be your favorite, the rest of the world sleeping and you and him in a moon puddle, watching his cheeks suck that beautiful milk in as you run your finger over his curls and whisper prayers into his teeny ears.  You will ask for three things over and over in those sweet nights and the ones to follow: Jesus, make him fall in love with you, keep him safe, grow him up to love others more than himself.

Today that baby boy up and drove away, his new license in his wallet and confidence and pride etched on his beautiful face.  You cried when you ordered his gift: a silver key chain that is engraved with the GPS coordinates to 9000 on one side so he can always find his way back home, and the word “mama” on the other so he knows who will always be waiting for him, keeping his supper warm and dying to hear his stories.  You’ve done it.  Not that your work is even close to finished, but you’re off to a good start.  And this motherhood role has morphed from the constant touching and caring and diapering and guiding to a more hands off role of prayer and advice, but only when asked.  You are in a role that is less babysitter and more guidance counselor, more spiritual advisor.  Those long long days of pouring yourself out physically will give way to pouring yourself out emotionally and spiritually and they will be almost more taxing.  You can’t keep him safe like you did when he was four and you had to keep him out of the creek.  He has been released to the world and you can’t control what they do with him.  This is terrifying.  But then you remember that dark night on the beach when you cried out to a Father who had control of a world in which you had none and how He brought you peace and you trust him to do it again.  And the instant you whisper his name, you feel it flood in and you realize that this is how you parent older children, with wisdom and lots of whispered prayers to the only one who loves this boy more than you do.  And don’t worry, there are like a billion Smalls left to be totally dependent on you, so you will always have that.  You might think for a minute that, as Jen Hatmaker said, perhaps it would be better for you to crush their dreams so that they grow up and live in your basement with their emotional support ferret, but you would be wrong.

Dear Younger Me, suck the marrow out of those early days of yoga pants and library story time when they come.  Run your fingers through downy curls and breathe in the smell of sunscreen on baby skin all day long.  Because there is a day coming far too soon when those curls will drive off taking their person with them and you will be standing in your kitchen (which is fab, by the way) and will weep at the sight of it, will feel like maybe that boy will never truly be yours again.  Maybe.  But then he will come home for dinner, bringing friends with blue lips from gas station slurpies and you will listen to their banter over roast beast and pavlova and you will think that maybe these days of letting go and driving off aren’t so bad after all.  You will also think that perhaps you will spend every day of the rest of your bloody life giving something up.  That the Father who planted that baby in your tummy, bids you constantly to lay his and your life down.  And that when you get cocky and forget ( you will do this often), he will send a reminder that this life is a blip on the radar screen and not at all worth holding on to so you’d better let go.  The things you hold on to the tightest were never yours to begin with.  And someday you will sit at Judith, your laptop, committing these things to memory via blog and you will think that maybe letting go isn’t the worst thing after all.

this is me being real.

dear younger me. 5

Spring break for you entails showing up at the right time for transport to the airport and spending several prepaid sessions at the tanning booth the week before.  You will smell like chemicals and you will wonder every time if the bed was properly cleaned before as you peel your sweaty bod off it.  Spring break will be exotic and relaxing and a bit comical as you wait for your dad to give his annual speech: “The orange juice at breakfast isn’t actually free.  I have to pay three bucks a glass for you to drink half of it. And while we are talking about it, neither are all those virgin daiquiris you order at the pool.  Can we all just exercise some self restraint, please?”  While he is policing the drinks consumed, your mom will be laying out by the pool, exhausted eyes being daily smoothed out by the sun and water.  You will be baffled by this, wondering how hard it can be to, like, go on vacation.

Younger me, you are an idiot.  That woman has spent the better part of a week making and checking off lists, packing and repacking suitcases and buying punch cards for the tanning salon.  She has ordered twelve different bathing suits from Spiegel and has sent nearly all of them back because they are too skimpy, too busty, wrong color.  She has made sure that everyone has sandals and shorts and tank tops; bonus points if they all coordinate so that we match in pictures.  She has scrubbed the house down so that if someone breaks in while you are away, they will not be met with dust bunnies under the beds as they look for valuables and the police will be so awestruck that they will make note of how spotless the house was in their report. If she is to lose everything she owns, she will go down with a clean house.

Megan, I know this because I have spent the last week doing this insane prep work, minus the tanning booth and Spiegel.  Every suitcase is perfectly packed to avoid complaints on our trip.  The kids will have the right outfits!  And they will match!  I have become our mother.  And I will lay on a couch in New Mexico Wednesday night, a string of drool connecting me to my shirt and I will listen to the kids exclaim that there are cactuses out the balcony and I will smile because I have done this insane thing of packing 8 people for spring break and the people are happy.  And well-dressed.  I will meet up with our mom and sisters on Saturday, they just starting their vacation and I will make them a cuppa and ask them to meet me on the couch where I will regale them with all the funny tales of the start of our trip and they will begin to relax and actually BE on vacation.  The cousins will all be under one roof, all 19 of them and they will all be happy and well-dressed.  Our lunches will consist of Streganona in the kitchen, stirring a never-ending pot of gluten free pasta with non-gmo sauce and lots and lots of shaky cheese.  Just like Streganona.  It will be cooked over laughter and catching up, over finishing sentences and helping kids buckle ski boots and helmets.

Younger me, someday you will grow up and see the madness behind the seamless vacations you are taking, but for now you know only the fun.  That is as it should be.  That is what I want for our children: to just go and have adventures and not worry about all the cogs in the wheel that have to perfectly line up to make it all work.  So it’s ok to be a little oblivious right now, but promise me you’ll do me this solid: the next time you are laying on a lounge chair in Scottsdale, reading a Seventeen magazine you didn’t buy in a bathing suit you didn’t even shop for, lean over to mom and thank her for it all.  Tell her you think it’s amazing, the work she’s done to ensure you have a fun spring break.  Do this for dad too.  He works so hard to figure out the flights and hotels and rental cars. Tell him he’s the best and make a mental promise to yourself to finish all your juice at breakfast.  When he gives his speech anyway, because he will, have the good grace to look chagrined.  Then offer to take the little ones to the pool so they can finish their coffee in peace and quiet.  This is actually the least you can do.  And someday when you are older and you are preparing to take your Smalls on a trip (don’t forget the pink blanket named Black and the keloid scar named Steve), try to take a step back and remember that almost nothing you pack in those suitcases matters except your Zoloft and Abe’s propanol.  The rest is just fluff in the nest, so don’t sweat it.  Instead, take some minutes to be totally cup overflowing thankful for the chance to run away with your loves and have an adventure.  Because, man, there will be many years when there is no money in the coffers for jackassery like travel and you will sell the kids on Staycations even while every dang kid in the their class is heading to Disney.  And those will be precious memories too because you’ll be together, still having adventures.  Don’t forget to suck the marrow out of those days and to write about it because you will forget all those days when

this is me being real.



We have been held so tightly the last week.  Held and whispered to and loved so gently by Father.  I’m a logistics girl.  You hand me a problem and I’ll take it to the mattress until I’ve got it nailed.  I spring into action.  It’s what I do.  And so the last week has been a blur of open tabs for each of the three transplant locations that have been mentioned.  Tabs for Zillow and Trulia and searches on schools and churches and things to do.  I scroll and search and none of them are perfect because none of them are home.  But just yesterday, I spoke to a love, telling her that I can’t see a path forward that doesn’t cost more than we have, financially, emotionally, physically and she responded with this: Jesus is the Way Maker.  He goes before and he makes paths straight so when your legs are shaking and tired and you think you can’t take another step on this crazy path, he bolsters you with one simple direction: just keep walking.  The housing, the schooling, the shifting of family roles and the splitting up, that will all be taken care of.  You, Megan, you are not the path maker, you are the path walker.  Jesus is all, just stay in your lane, man.  Because my natural bent is to try to make the path I’m going to walk upon, but that is not my work.  Never was.  And thank heavens because I would make a total mess of it.  Just a total mess.  Because path making is not a sign of my strength, my ability to plan and execute.  Path making is a sign of my lack of faith.  There it is.  My ridiculous lack of faith begs me give it a shot because Jesus might not blaze the path that I asked for. Jesus is going to go rogue, I’m sure of it.  He’s going to do something smack nuts like Chinese adoption that leads to heart transplant and maybe moving, oh wait.  See?  Jesus is crazy like that.  He is the path maker but he’s also the energy giver, the blister healer, the water provider, the baggage handler, the bump smoother.  He’s all those things if only I’ll be the one thing: path walker.  Just go, he says, so gently and softly.  Just go and I’ll take care of everything else because whatever path I set for you, I go first.

And so I close tabs and instead sit on couch, tears making silent tracks down my cheeks and offer him my off key worship, “You’re a good, good Father.  It’s who you are.  It’s who you are.  It’s who you are.  And I’m loved by you.  It’s who I am.  It’s who I am.  You’re a good, good Father.” And as I sing, I get louder and more boisterous until I’m wearing a camp tee shirt and I’m on the church bus hurtling down some wonky dirt road to who the heck knows but Jesus has made a way and I’m not getting off this path until he shows us a new one and tells us to get walking.  So to all you beautiful people who have offered to line our way with prayers…gosh, we are humbled and blessed.  Seriously.  The village is the best and I would kiss each and every one of your beautiful selves if I could.  But maybe a better offering is the promise that where we go, you will too because I will write it all here and I will make it as honest and worshipful as I can because this life is our Isaac and because

this is me being real.


We met with Abe’s team this week and I hardly know what to write about it.  They were so kind, taking nearly 2 hours to answer our questions and draw diagrams.  This Hypertrophic CardioMyopathy is throwing us all for a loop and it is slowly strangling Abe’s heart.  And he has these freakishly large carotid arteries that prevent them from being able to go in and scoop out the tissue to make his ventricles less strangled, which is the only treatment for HCM, besides the meds he’s on, which aren’t working.  So the only thing that can save our boy is a transplant, which comes with it’s own set of problems: where to go and how to make it suck the least for all of us.  We have given our kids the abridged version: that Abe needs a new heart and that we may have to go to California or Boston or Ann Arbor to get it but that we will do it like we do everything: together, us 8 and 2 dogs and a white blanket named Black and a keloid scar named Steve.  We will do it together.  But first we wait for conversations to happen and scans to be reviewed that will tell us if he’s a candidate and then how long we might wait.  And if he’s not or it’s too long, he will go in and they will attempt a very tricky bi-ventricular repair and we will do that together too.  Us and the village that has texted and let me cry on shoulders and given hard and frequent hugs.  Our sweet office ladies at school who saw that the smallest bit of kindness yesterday would completely undo me, so let me be all business as we amended his emergency plan to account for the ridiculous amount of blood thinners he’s on now and the steps that will need to be taken if he falls and bleeds.  His teacher who emailed verses and encouragement even as her own heart is surely breaking.  Our fave principal who called and said, whatever you guys need from us, from us as a school and us as a family, you have it.  Just name it. To the nana and papa who heard me say that we will do it together, the 8 of us and said, make it 10 because wherever you go, we will come too so we can be your help.  Who offered to move with us to California so we won’t be alone if it comes to that.  How to even get my teeth around that bit of yumminess?  To friends and loves who have called and showed up and texted and who will continue to do so because they are our lifeblood.

We know this: that the Father who ordained that Abe be born in Inner Mongolia nearly 7 years ago with a bum heart that gets bum (mer) by the day, knew that where he actually belonged was here, at 9000, with a family who would move anywhere for him.  And who are learning themselves how much love costs, but that it’s always in the budget.  That the asinine rule of love math is that the more you give it away, the more you have to give and if Mr. Scrotenboer can explain that one then I will give him all the tea in china because it confounds me daily.  We are teaching it to our kids as the math you will actually use in real life, because let’s be honest: sine and cosine…almost useless.

So we would covet your prayers as we wait to hear if Abe is a candidate for transplant and then as we hit the ground running toward a new heart and a cure for this kid who would spend all his day playing sports if that was a job.  And as we process what this will mean as a family and work through the hard bits.  For unity in our marriage and protection for us two, who 23 years ago said yes to the good and the hard and had no idea, just no freaking clue, what that would entail.  For spring break.  Three months ago when we planned to go, just the 8 of us, to explore New Mexico for a few days before meeting up with every blessed member of my family at Breckenridge CO, we were given the green light and now they are very concerned about the pressures in his heart at those high elevations.  But they consider the whole child and know that this boy, whose greatest fear is being left behind, would shrink into a ball so small we wouldn’t be able to find him if we tried to make it a party of 7.  So we will go and we won’t hesitate to fly back with him if he can’t hack it at 7,500 feet.  Won’t hesitate for a second.  And ultimately are going with our team’s blessing and the number of Denver Children’s on speed dial just in case.  Would you cover that too?

this is me being real.



She called during the after-school hours, when the phone is cradled between ear and shoulder and hands are elbow deep in dinner prep and homework.  And she had to repeat it thrice because I didn’t hear first and then didn’t believe second.  Abram has been approved for a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation.  A mistake, I was certain because he’s healthy and we didn’t nominate him.  But Amy, a nurse at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital who has taken care of him? heard about him? seen his file? did.  I have no idea who you are, but Amy…you are a gift to think of this blue spectacled boy.  To go far beyond your job and fill out the paperwork.  Such a gift.  I argued with Kirsten from MAW for a sec that surely Abe doesn’t meet the requirements, isn’t terminal, is at this very moment driving me nuts with his basketball in the kitchen.  But the criteria is Medically Critical and he is that on paper and someday his paper diagnosis will translate into his real life, already is in smallish ways.  And so I cried hot tears on the phone.  For joy at the thought of anything he wishes.  For the sadness of the reality of his health.  For the selflessness of a nurse named Amy and a group that seeks to bless sick kids with the incredible.  And then I told Dan and the three olders who all had to think a minute about what this all means and why I’m crying and if this is something we can even accept on Abe’s behalf.

They asked yesterday if Abe would know what his wish might be when they start hanging out with our family in a couple weeks to get their finger on our pulses.  I said I couldn’t imagine he’d be able to articulate something so abstract, but maybe?  And then last night as Grant, Dan and Abe were headed out the door to cheer our beloved Hawks on in districts, Grant said to him, “Beaky, if you could have anything in the whole wide world, what would you want?” and without hesitation and wearing his blue and gold jersey, he replied, “Meet Steph curry and break his ankles.” Which, is much less Tonya Harding than you’d think and more a slang for making someone stumble because you dodge them so quickly.

Still chewing on the fat of all this.  Have been assured over and over that accepting this wouldn’t take it away from someone else and am starting to view it for the great gift it is. No idea how this will all end up, but for now there is a packet of papers headed to 9000 with all the information we need to give Abe this incredible wish.  And next week when we meet with our cardiac team and find out what the next step is, I will be scanning name tags for Amy so I can squeeze her neck, even as I try to focus on the statistics they throw at us and the timeline they lay out.  Next week we will hold a printed model of our son’s heart in our hands and listen to the most dedicated, talented group of docs we know lay it all out for us.  Forgive me if I drift off half way through and think of my boy in his Warriors jersey maybe meeting his hero and it makes me stupid grin.  I have a habit of inappropriate emotional response in stressful situations, ask anyone.  Sometimes I think I should keep more of that stuff to myself, but

this is me being real.

dear younger me 4.

Sometimes I don’t even know how to prepare you for this life. I have enough words for several people but that might not be enough.  How to prepare you for a life that seems like it’s spinning out of control nearly all the time, when you are nicely ensconced in your teen years of just having fun and homework? How to tell you as you head off to high school or college that in the future people will storm schools with assault rifles and kill children by the tens? That you will stop watching the news because it makes you want to move your family to Nunavut and live on an ice floe there.  Except you hate fish.  That will never change.  How to tell you that the neatly ordered life you love will become a mosh pit of laundry and meal prep and fingerprints on window panes? And that you’ll mostly love it.  Except when you don’t, because your need for order in chaos will never change and so you’ll stay up nights vacuuming and organizing and putting the house back to rights after your children, who are human hurricanes, have destroyed it.  How to tell you that eventually you will have to stop living for yourself and lay it all down and that when you do, it won’t hurt like you think it will because you will be ready?  How to tell you, in these days of spending hours laying on your bed in your upstairs room devouring dry cereal and books, that a few minutes of uninterrupted time will become such a luxury that when you find it, you will suck the very marrow of it? How to tell you that your mornings will be taken up with hair and lunches and making breakfast that no one will eat and that you will find deep satisfaction in all of it?  That you will find yourself on a Sunday night, driving in your teenager’s new car to his school to pick up his forgotten homework after an afternoon spent in the frigid creek rescuing the bridge that washed away in last week’s flood and you will think to yourself that this has been the perfect day.  If you could insert yourself into NOW, you would probably hate it.  It it loud and chaotic and messy.  The phones you would love, but everything else?  Not so much.  You would walk around in a stupor reminding me that I swore I’d never make our kids eat oatmeal or fish and telling me I sound a lot like mom.  And then you would tell me that you’d rather be back with homework and Burger King after school and Showcase Cinemas on the weekends and that I can keep all this crazy to myself, thank you very much.  And I would smile and wish for a sec I could switch places and relive those sweet, easy days and then I would go back to unloading the dishwasher and telling Maggie to take another bite for the love of God and I would say, fine.  Out of all the places in all the times, there is nowhere I’d rather be than here with these people doing this work.  And that I have a meeting with the youth pastor of a local church this afternoon because these are crazy times and I need to at least explore getting strong young men and women in our public high schools so that our kids, who are hurting and confused, have someone to look up to and emulate.  That there is less proselytizing and more just loving people and entering in to hurt that is needed.  And that maybe, hopefully, that leads to the cross, as it should.   I would tell you that our work will become loving people and you will be confused, because you really only care about yourself right now, but there will be a day when you won’t and you will realize then that this family you have become obsessed with are the best thing, but they are only the inroad to a much bigger purpose: serving the world.  And because kids are who they are, they will bring the world to you and will drop it’s broken, nasty self on your front porch and you will take that world inside and clean it up and feed it something yummy with protein and you will get filled up right alongside.

Oh Megan, I can never prepare you for the life we are going to live and now, at 43, it’s just starting.  The kids are in school full time and you are hitting your stride.  Ok, sometimes you binge watch The Crown and shop online far too long, but mostly you are figuring it out. Making a total muddle of it somedays and nailing it on others.  That has not and will not ever change.  I can’t prepare you for this life because I had no idea, but it will be ours and it will be great.  I wish you would start now, noticing the lonely kid and going out of your way to love.  But you are embracing this hedonistic, self-focused stage of development and that’s ok, because it will add meat to your testimony.  So, carry on with your teenage years and know that it’s all going to be ok.  That this future life we will live will be messy and hard and practically perfect for us.  And that it will teach us Kingdom lessons that we desperately need to learn.  Can’t wait to share them with you.

this is me being real.


There is a grainy cell phone video circling the web in which you see whimpering children huddled together in a corner of a classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting last Wednesday.  There are whimpers as they wait.  Of course there are whimpers.  And then the swat team bursts in and tells them to put their hands in the air and they do.  And that sea of shaking hands wrecks me.

I have no answers.  I can’t explain what goes through a boy’s mind when he walks into a school of his peers and opens fire.  I can’t begin to imagine the agony of a family like the Hoyers, who waited and waited for word of their son, not hearing until 1 am that he had been killed, even as their hearts surely knew long before that he was gone.  The thought of mothers and fathers wrapping their arms around their babies who have been terrorized and will never be the same and the mamas and dads whose arms are empty…its all horrible and I can’t make sense of any of it.

I didn’t grow up around guns, but my kids have and my love did.  We have guns, emptied of ammo and locked in a safe in our basement.  They are taken out and cleaned, used for target practice and hunting.  Our kids have learned the language of gun safety since they were teeny.  They will teach it to their children, this right to bear arms for protection and hunting.  Someday one of my sons might walk into a gun shop and purchase his first handgun.  If so, I hope that he is put through the wringer.  That if he has ever had a mental illness, an arrest, any kind of brush with the law, any indication that he is even a smidge less than stable that the law will prevent him from getting his hands on a weapon.  We need this.  I’m not interested in a debate here, you can peddle that on any of about a million facebook posts right now.  I’m simply saying as a mother of children who have been raised to respect and care for guns, that there is no down side to making it harder for everyone to get their hands on a weapon.  If you are mentally healthy, you have nothing to worry about.  If you have a clean record with the police, you have nothing to worry about.  If you have never had a violent strike on your record, have never been accused of domestic violence, this won’t affect you.  If you have taken the necessary gun safety classes and have proven you know how to handle and store guns, you will be in the clear.

You will possibly have to fill out more paperwork, take another class and repeat it every few years, pay a bit more and put yourself under scrutiny, but there are 17 families in Florida who will tell you it is a small price to pay and they’ve footed the lion’s share of the bill with the blood of their children.  Please don’t insult them by supposing that having a few more hoops to jump through to get your hands on a weapon is any kind of imposition because they will spend the rest of their lives tithing their tears to a government that has refused to more carefully vet prospective gun owners.

If we have any response to this new tragedy, let it be this: that if our leaders find the balls to put stricter gun regulations before congress, we keep our mouths shut, even when we suspect it’ll cause us some small inconvenience.  That we not tantrum when they ask us to pay more, attend classes or even if they reject our application altogether.  If we have any response to this let it err to the side of grace and respect for the lives that have been lost already and the lives that will surely be lost if we continue on this reckless path.  If we have any response to this latest school shooting, may it be to never forget the names: Alyssa, Scott, Martin, Nicholas, Aaron, Jaime, Chris, Luke, Cara, Gina, Joaqiun, Alaina, Meadow, Helena, Alex, Carmen, Peter.

If we have any response to this latest school shooting let it be to thank our teachers, who didn’t sign on for this job with their lives but who are daily laying them down to protect the precious children in their classrooms.  Who walk into school each day and mentally remind themselves of the action plan put in place should there ever be an active shooter in the school.  Let it be to pray for this nation that is so broken in this world that is falling to pieces.  And for our schools, which have become battlegrounds.  For the love of all that is holy, if we have any response to this latest school shooting, let it be on our knees, claiming this promise: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

dear younger me.3

I remember you in high school, wearing your short skirts and checking him out in Mr. Schrotenboer’s tenth grade algebra class.  He was adorable, you knew it, he didn’t, which made him even more adorable.  Your first date he will wear white girbaud jeans and a shy grin and you will melt.  You will stand at the door after he drops you off, wearing a stupid grin and whispering to yourself that you are gonna marry that boy someday.  You know almost nothing of romance or sex or how marriage even works but you are so sure he is the one.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  He is the one.  You will grow up and you will marry that boy and you will live happily ever after.  Except when you don’t.  Because there will be seasons when you wonder if it was a terrible mistake and you should have dated around more, held out for something better.  Lies.  He is something better, only you won’t always feel that way.

The shine is still on the penny in high school.  You’re playing at life without really having to live.  You imagine that you’ll both look the same, feel the same, act the same forever.  That this exciting thing that makes your skin vibrate will always do so and that the sight of him will always make you breathless.  Some days it will.  But there will come seasons when you only glance at him when he walks in the door, crying toddler hanging from your leg while you nurse the baby and stir the supper.  You will glance and nothing more.  There will come a season when you are so consumed by kids or anxiety or depression or work or or or that you will glance and nothing more.  You will look at pictures of the two of you in high school and you will long for those days of first kisses and stolen touch even as you lie in bed and ask him take his time but please don’t kiss you because you have an abscess on your gum and you don’t want him to burst your puss sack.  And had you said that to him in those first years of marriage he might have run for the hills, but twenty two years in he has seen you at your worst and has adored you there too.  He has watched you give birth four times and has born the brunt of your moodiness.  Nothing can faze this man.

Younger me, enjoy every cherry blossom-filled second of early dating because it is the sweetest, but know this: the rest is sweeter.  There will come a day when you honestly can’t remember a time you weren’t a pair.  You will roll over in the morning and look at your love and even though the years haven’t all been kind to either of you, you would make the same choice again.  And you do.  Every day of your marriage will be a re-choosing.  You will wake up, stumble into your bathroom, see the toothpaste on his sink and his whiskers on the counter and you will choose him again.  When he gives you the dreamiest earrings you’ve ever seen on Mother’s Day and his eyes are soft and liquid, you will choose him.  When he hold teeny babies in his strong arms and his eyes swim, you will choose him.  And when he hurts you deeply and you can hardly breathe for it, you will choose him.  Someday you will stand before Reverend John Guest, his English accent reverberating through the church, and you will promise to keep choosing this man for the rest of your life.  And even during those years when your children’s needs consume you both, you will know that choosing him is the best way to love them.  That they need to walk in on you making out in the kitchen sometimes.  That their security is wrapped up in finding you snuggling in bed on a Saturday morning and that they learn vital lessons about making it work when they hear you disagree and still respect and love one another.

Girl, you are making decisions now that will reverberate though the rest of your life.  This is a terrifying part of growing up: this adulting when you’re really just a baby, but he is one decision that is rock solid.  Together you will be rocked by six kids and two dogs and a keloid scar named Steve.   You will tear the house apart weekly, looking for a white blanket named black.  You will meet up in your closet and he will hold you while you cry bitter tears about one thing or another.  And you will hold those strong shoulders when he mourns his mom or the first time his son asks him about sex.  Your home will be sacred ground and a battlefield and a safe haven, all wrapped up and you will throw open your doors and welcome people in because what you’ve been given is grace upon grace, all heaped up and running over and you have only to look at the two of you to know it.   Young Megan, you know nothing now of sex and romance and marriage, but you will learn.

this is me being real.


*written some weeks ago, but still making me weepy today.

Today we sat across from a table full of people in the conference room of our beloved elementary school, screen full of numbers and goals.  They were so kind, so tentative, explaining the testing process to us and how Maggie fared in each category.  She’s behind.  Universally behind and the numbers didn’t expose anything we didn’t know going into that room.  But they were so sweet about it, almost apologetic.  She tries so hard and is the sweetest girl, they said.  She makes everyone around her happy; she makes us all happy, they said.  And so they finished highlighting what we already knew: she is behind.  Just that.  She is.  Most of her categories showing her to be at a 3.5 year level.  They laid out the findings like wares at a market, wondering if we’d buy, wondering how we’d react seeing it in black and white.  They were so kind.

At the end of the test-result section of an IEP comes the what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it phase.  But first, there is a box to be filled in with parent’s concerns and reactions.  This must surely be when these dear teachers and test-givers brace themselves for backlash, questioning, tears even maybe.  This is probably not their favorite part.  And we, as the people who loved her best, didn’t disappoint with the tears.  Lip trembling and emotion written across my face, I looked at that screen and said this, “You must brace yourselves at this point in the IEP for parents to be sad or angry or argumentative.  We are none of those.  Because what you need to know is that four years ago, when we thought we were adopting a little girl with cleft lip and palate, our agency sent us her medical file with the directive to read it, meet with at pediatrician who can consult on it and interpret what it will mean before we committed ourselves to her.  And that file?  It contained a comprehensive report by an American doctor who reported that Maggie’s head size was not compatible with brain growth.  Who believed she would be in a semi-vegetative state and would never walk, talk, potty train or be experience any kind of measurable cognitive growth.  She recommended that Maggie not be placed for adoption, but would perhaps be better placed in an institution.  And then she sealed it with her signature.  And our dear friend, a pediatrician, sat on our deck that warm summer day, tears in her compassionate eyes and Maggies file in shaking hands and concurred.  She was broken to deliver this news to us, that was clear.  And we were broken to hear it, spent six agonizing days wrestling with the Holy Spirit about wether he had called us to adopt A child or THIS child.  And then we signed. And when they put her in our arms, limp and lifeless, no expression on that blank face, our worst fears were confirmed.  I spent the first three days we had her sitting in a chair in our hotel room, dribbling formula into her little bird mouth with a spoon because she was too weak to even suck, her teeny body lifeless in my arms. So those numbers up there on the screen?  They are a miracle. And as far as we are concerned, her life began when they handed her to us three and a half years ago, so frankly, your findings are spot on.  You say she is operating at the level of a three and a half year old? That is because, for all intents and purposes, she is a three and a half year old, this 28 pound five year old girl of ours.  Which means she is exactly where she is supposed to be.  We are thrilled.  We will always be thrilled with the numbers because we signed our names on a paper four years ago, locking her in as our girl, knowing that medical science saw her abilities as zero, her potential as zero, her life as zero.  Those numbers up there? Miracle.”

For those of you warrior parents who have spent this fall at those brutal IEP meetings hearing findings that made you ache, take heart in this truth: your child is exactly who they are supposed to be.  Just totally, fully who they are supposed to be.  And wether they are cognitively or socially or emotionally nearly half their bio age or leaps ahead, matters little.  What matters is that they are home and in your arms and that it is forever.  Which doesn’t make the day to day any easier, holy smokes it doesn’t, but let it soak into your heart that perhaps our goal here isn’t to raise Rhodes Scholars, but to welcome in sons and daughters.  That family is more precious than degrees and belonging will matter more than any letters they accumulate behind their names someday.  So you sit at your IEP meetings, looking at those numbers and you want to throw out some of your own.  Numbers like how many days you waited to bring this child home, wringing hands and heart as the time dragged on.  Or how many dollars were raised by a community as committed to bringing your child home as you did, even when giving cost them dearly.  Or how many beats per minute your heart beat as you sat in that room waiting for a first glimpse, your heart like a drum in your chest.  Or how many people dragged themselves out to the airport at all hours to welcome you home, you and your precious new one.  Or how many nights it’s been since you’ve had your bed to yourself, unoccupied by a child who is sure they will wake up tomorrow totally alone and it will all have been a dream. Those are the numbers that matter. And you are killing it.  You are.  So here’s to you, IEP parents.  And those without them.  You are doing the hard, beautiful work that you have been called to do.  And you. are. crushing. it.  Carry on, brave mamas and babas.  Carry on.