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A Hand Reaching Out


When Ben and I arrived to jummah prayer service at Masjid Al-Muslimiin, we were immediately welcomed by women of all ages. A teenage girl approached asking what Ben’s name was and then helped me with my headscarf. As I looked around the community gathered in the courtyard, I was speechless that there was a whole community of faith who gathered right off the busy street of Garners Ferry in Columbia on Friday afternoons whom I had never encountered. How many times had I passed the sign and not wondered about this community?

And as we gathered in the small room designated for the women sitting on the red-carpeted ground, I was overwhelmed by the sense of community that was palpable in the body heat of the women and children gathered. I resisted the urge to keep Ben close and let him wander through the sea of arms and legs just as the children for whom this was their faith family were doing. He tried to follow another little boy out of the door, but before he escaped, a hand reached out to stop him. It was a hand of an elderly woman in a burka and as he turned to look into her face, her smile spread across her face. She passed him a lamb stuffed animal to play with while whispering to him in Arabic. He sat beside her mesmerized and I stopped and watched as I held back tears.

We insist on so many boundaries and barriers in our American culture. We insist and protect our privacy, our right to free speech, our right to worship or not worship, our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are missing so much life-giving, life-affirming love that comes from sitting together and reaching a hand out across those boundaries and barriers. Thanks be to God for this community of faith for their courage in inviting us, outsiders, into their community of faith for truly this is divine, mysterious, transformative, radical hospitality.

Blending Families, Sharing Spaces

It was 2:30 a.m., Sam and I looked at each other and said, “We’ve got to figure out something different.” We had both lost count how many times we had been up, ping ponging from our 6 year old to our 10 month old. They were waking each other up back and forth, sharing space.

This puzzle of blending our family is part of who we are. We are figuring it out and learning to share space together. We have to give each other room as our family grows. We have to give each other understanding. We have to give each other love.

We have to admit that we miss each other and that the transition from being together to being apart is difficult and sometimes makes us grumpy and sometimes just makes us exhausted. We have to admit that blending families and sharing spaces is hard work, but important work, holy work. We have to admit that it’s frustrating when other people don’t understand how hard we work to be family and share spaces.

But we wouldn’t have it another way because blending families and sharing spaces ignites our creativity and our curiosity. It asks us to imagine and dream and plan. It allows us to be ourselves because we have blended our lives and shared our space together as family.



To Sam-

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To Sam, the man who first asked me to be his wife and to be Mama 2 to our beautiful girls,

To Sam, the man who held and entertained our son for the first two hours of his life while waiting for me in the recovery room,

To Sam, the man who cries and laughs with me on this journey of parenthood,

I love you.

It’s Scary as Hell to Be a Parent

Ben and Mama

I did it again.

I went to his room and peaked over the crib railing to make sure he was breathing. He’s been sleeping on his side since he was a day old, but still it scares me to death, especially when he covers his face with both hands, just like he did in all of his ultrasound pictures. I know there are apps and video monitors designed and sold to parents to quell our worries and concerns, but I still have to go and check. I have to see his belly moving up and down with my own eyes or hear his soft snore with my own ears.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because when you’re not worried about whether he or she is breathing while sleeping, you’re worried about whether he or she is getting enough food or gaining enough weight. And then when he or she stops sleeping and wakes up more during the night you worry about why he or she isn’t sleeping. Is it teething or sickness or a growth spurt?  And then you go to the doctor and they tell you what percentage he or she is in height and weight and head size, giving you three more things to be worried about not to mention the list of developmental goals you are supposed to be monitoring and assessing and encouraging. And then you see other kids around his or her age and wonder if your kid is doing the things those kids are doing. And if your kid is doing something different than the other kids, you wonder if that is something to be concerned about or not.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because you’re responsible for this mini human and his or her well being. You are responsible for helping him or her grow and learn. And when he or she gets to the point that he or she can do things independently like walk and eat and go to the potty, then you have to start teaching him or her what it means to live in community: to share and do unto others as you would have them do unto you and respect caregivers who give their time and energy and love and support.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because then you have to walk with him or her when he or she encounters the brokenness that exists in the world. You are the ones who tell him or her when someone they love is sick. You are the ones that have to tell him or her that our bodies don’t last forever and that sometimes the people or pets we love die because people and pets aren’t designed to live forever. And then you have to wonder how to explain the divine to these mini humans whose minds and bodies are really still mostly concentrated and attuned to learning how to be human. And you have to decide whether you are going to tell them what to believe or what we believe or encourage them to believe what they believe even if it’s different than what you want them to believe.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because you see the worst and the best in your children and you pray desperately that the worst won’t win as often as it wins within you, but that the best parts of you and the best parts of your partner might somehow miraculously be the only parts that this mini human receives. You encourage the good and address the bad trying every parenting method that you’ve read about, sometimes all within one day. And you hope and pray that you are doing something right.

It’s scary as hell to be a parent.

Because then you end up preaching a sermon from John’s gospel and read before a community of faith, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And you realize that even though it’s scary as hell to be a parent, you are the parcel of peace presented to these mini humans because of the Holy Spirit is dwelling or staying within you. And you remember that even thought it’s scary, you don’t want to teach your children fear, but peace and wholeness in a world of brokenness.

And so you whisper, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,” as you say goodbye and send your girls back to their mom’s and as you go to peak over the side of the crib railing just one more time to make sure he’s breathing.

I Was Taught to Be Afraid

I was taught to be afraid –

of dying before I knew that I knew that I knew I was saved,


of missing opportunities to lead others to Christ,

of not being an example to all the nonbelievers,

of living outside of God’s perfect will,

of being myself.


I was taught to be afraid –

of walking in parking lots by myself at night,

of boys with bad intentions,

of talking to strangers,

of the homeless, the helpless, the desperate,

of people different than me.


I will teach my children –

awareness to see the needs surrounding them,

compassion for all people,

hope to share with the hopeless and the desperate,

love to heal the broken and those in pain,

confidence in their strength and their instincts,


I will not teach fear.

On Nesting and Nursery Decorating


This weekend we are celebrating the girls’ fall break. We have gone to Riverbanks Zoo for Boo at the Zoo, and they have also been helping with deliveries of the donations we have received from Fernwood Baptist Church, but mostly we have been preparing for their new brother to come.

The girls have both taken time to practice pushing the stroller. We’ve been washing clothes and decorating the nursery. We’ve also had discussions about what are his toys and what are his things and remembering that being siblings means respecting each others space because he will be expected to do the same for his sisters.


And we’ve been practicing his name:


In the midst of my need to organize the Tupperware cabinet and rearrange the nursery for the 14th time, there is a quiet anticipation that has fallen over our house. The girls know the next time they come to visit us, there will be a baby. The next time we go to Boo at Zoo, there will be a baby. When we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, there will be a baby.  For us as a family, the Advent season is starting now at the end of October with a pumpkin-size baby we can’t wait to meet, knowing that Baby Ben will change our family, will change us, just like the Christ-child changed the world with his birth.

Two Years, Two Puppies, Two Girls

All TogetherToday Sam and I celebrate two years of marriage with two kids and two puppies, but it will be the last anniversary that we will go two by two. At 37 weeks, our house is being transformed to include another new life that is now well-contained in my belly.

There is no way I would be where I am (the pastor of a church, the editor-in-chief of an independent publishing house, the stepmom of two beautiful girls, and puppy mom to two rescue pups) without Sam. He continues to challenge me and see things in me that I can’t see.

Thank you, Sam, for changing my life, for changing me.

What is Normal?

As I watched the news this morning, I heard the news anchors saying again and again that what the Midlands community is looking forward to is returning to a sense of normalcy. I nodded my head in agreement at first, but then I realized that for some many families there won’t be a normal to be returned to.

I have already heard stories of people who are planning on moving from the Midlands because quite simply there is nothing left for them here. They have no house and no materials and so they are headed to family and friends’ homes who can support them during this time of rebuilding. Their lives will forever be marked by last week’s events and their normal Midlands lives may never exist again.

For the rest of us who were fortunate enough to maintain minor damages, our coming days and weeks will be filled with a new sort of normal that includes remembering to bring another bottle of water to put by the sink to brush our teeth, debating each day whether we really need to keep that one bathtub filled with water just in case, and including extra time in our commute to detour around closed roads.

As organisms operating in an ecosystem, the return to homeostasis is certainly something we are working towards, and the hope for this return to balance is what makes us get up and continue to work in our community amidst tired muscles and shock. As we work, we secretly know that there won’t be a normal like there was before. We know that we will have to adjust and change. We know that the way we view the world is slowly shifting.

We just hope that change makes us stronger and better neighbors.

Barefoot and Pregnant in the Kitchen

I looked down at my belly and my bare feet and realized that at that moment I was indeed barefoot and pregnant and standing in the kitchen. I had to laugh at myself because this stereotype that has been used and overused is just impossibly easy to live into when you are eight months pregnant because I am always in the kitchen snacking.

But of course, that’s not the aspect of the saying that strong, independent women react to. It’s the implication that a woman’s role is to always be in the kitchen cooking and to reproduce. As I have pondered what it means to be a stepmother to two daughters, I have wondered whether it means that I teach that this expectation is wrong or if my role is to teach them to use their voice, so that they can make their own choice and to fight against those who try to take away their voice and choice.

I’d like to believe that when our daughters are grown, the economic situation in our country that forces women back to work only days after having children will have shifted, so that if they do choose to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, that will be a viable option, but there seems to be little shift in the conversation about maternity leave or in postpartum care for new moms.

Having lived in Germany and enjoyed the use of a bike that a teacher who was on her yearlong maternity leave wasn’t using, I wonder if we aren’t on our way to burning out women, families, and our country in the way that we continually compete against each other. Already I am flooded with articles and pictures of how to lose the baby weight and our baby hasn’t even made his appearance. Although I consider myself a rational, thinking person, there is no doubt that the more articles I am exposed to, the more I wonder if it’s something I should really be worrying about.

As our conversations and debates continue to be more derisive and our interactions with each other competitive-based, we are slowly running ourselves into the ground as Americans. We are becoming the worst versions of ourselves.

There has to be a better way to live with each other.

On Having to Ask for Help Again and Again

As the third trimester gets closer and closer, I find myself in need of help more and more often whether that is trying to lift something or just needing to rest more. It’s not been an easy process for me. I watched Sam move piece of furniture after piece of furniture over the past two weeks as we rearrange our home to include room for Baby H. It was humbling to watch his dedication to our family and to our son and not be able to offer help. I felt lost

Before I was a minister, I was a teacher: two helping professions, so not being able to help others and having to ask for help instead is against my natural inclinations. I know that I have to change my perspectives so that I can help our baby grow and grow strong and that has asked me to analyze and reflect on who I am at the core of my being.

Maybe that’s what it means to be a parent though. Maybe this is just practice for asking for help again and again as we try to raise a child in this crazy, ever-changing world.