When your "one word" bites you in the backside

27 February 2014


I laid in bed for an hour this afternoon. George Winston was on shuffle and in my mind, I alternated prayers with opening sentences. There are times when I can't decide between praying and writing, and it all comes out of my left-brained heart, anyway. And really, isn't it the same? Each one of our prayers are subconciously written, aren't they? Depending on who you are - or who you ask - only one person gets a chance to read them. But still, that's one reader.

This last week and a half has arguably been the single most humbling time of my life. When a dousing of cold water reminds you that you aren't really as in control of things as you thought - hoped, wished - you were. And when it hits the fan (you know the "it " I speak of), you're left with two choices. You remember that which you believed (that you entrust a higher power to know better, that He is good and you'll be ok), or you crawl in bed and cry for four days.

I did the latter. While, begrudgingly, still clinging to the former.

And do you know what I thought the whole time, the phrase on repeat in my mind?

"I tried so hard!"

In all the ways I'd hoped I'd grown these years, this inconvenient truth remains: I still want to control my own destiny. And, even when I think I'm doing everything right, have every box ticked, have tried super hard, things will still go wrong. Or be different. Or not turn out the way you hoped. He will have His way, not mine.

If you want the nitty gritty details, I'll sum it up for you in this: I was denied a visa (not the money kind, the immigration kind) and now I've gotta play catch up. I'm collating documents and rewriting letters and clarifying what needs clarity. I'll submit these fine things and then I'll wait.

And I'm told - I hope, I wish (I pray) - it'll be ok.

So today I laid in bed for an hour. A week's worth of not eating, late nights and poring over documents has left me weary and on hypersensitive overdrive. I tried to slow it all down, to pray in deep breaths and let the music soothe my spirit. I prayed for wisdom and peace. For comfort in the waiting and confidence in the mess. And also that He'd help me calm the heck down.

In the meantime, things may slow down here a bit. All of my wordy energies are being used up in legal mumbo jumbo. And I'm just really, very tired. I want to not have to sneak a nap in the middle of the day to sleep-pray. So some new faces may pop up here. Or maybe nothing but a picture or two so you know I'm still around and not gone yet.

But let's also make a deal. When it hits the fan for you as it did for me, let's try this: you go ahead and get in bed and cry for four days. But meet me back here. Let us remind eachother of who does what in this heaven-earth-God-man equation. It's so much less you and me than we think. We can try all we want to have it all together. But then, let's let it go.

Dear Sister, a repost {I am not cut out for espionage}

20 February 2014

Dear Sister,

So there we are, sitting in immigration for unending hours, our number just about to be miraculously called, when Matt has to leave. E is done with school in 40 minutes, and we are in the city centre, a 20 minute bus-ride away. He asks me, "Are you OK here?" and I'm all like, "What? Me? Me and the stress migraine? Yeah, sure, I'll be fine. What can possibly go wrong?"

This is all a part of moving to another country. Visas (or immigration bureau cards) have to be applied for, procured, renewed every year. It's routine, really. Except you gotta be specific, have to assure them we won't work here, that we live off of funds from the United States and won't be a drain on their own fragile State. There are words you should use, words you definitely cannot use, and then there's the fingerprinting. No matter how honest and upright we are in the citizenry department, I still feel like a criminal. I still feel like I'm in deep cover, using an alias. 

As it turns out, I am not cut out for espionage. I text Matt all panicky and maniacally. I forget I have a bank card. And the fingerprinting - done digitally - takes for.ev.er. as I can't hold my shaky hands steady. I joke with the immigration officer about my dad being a policeman, how I should know how to do this, how it's really so crazy they can't get a clear image of my prints and we have to do them over 2, 3, 4 times. "I'm sorry," I say, "I really don't know what the problem is."

But today I remember, the hours we sat there with the television on. Sky News and the dragging of a man behind a police van. police van. Images may be graphic, they say, but it's really the best way to get you to pay attention. You can't unsee this, is what they should say, as a crowd of men pulls him kicking and screaming, ties his hands behind his head, and attaches them to the bed of the van. It pulls away slowly, maybe to make sure he holds, I don't really know. Then it takes off, and the man - hands over his head and backside banging along a dirty South African road - is gone. He died in custody, they tell you.

And you, you just can't unsee that. In a room filled with immigrants, veiled and exhausted and babies crying under unfamiliar eyes, we all can't unsee that. And it's not until later when I think, maybe the others there, from every country and language imaginable, maybe they've been much closer than a television screen to that man on the South African road. Maybe that's why they're here. Giving fingerprints. In deep cover.

So no, Sister, for as much Alias as you and I have watched together, I'm just not cut out for espionage. Or international intrigue. Or torture. Or police with blood on their hands. But I am cut out for here, and for these people, and when he says, "You must've liked it well enough to come back here again," I say, "Yes. We love it." And my shaky fingerprint leaves a smudge.

I miss you. Hug dad.



a repost from February 2013, with some foreshadowing mixed in for good measure

To take hold of Him {a guest post at Velvet Ashes}

16 February 2014

One year ago today we shuffled three exhausted children and 18 suitcases through customs and past the sliding doors of arrivals. We were met by a gaggle of our new/old team, friends and peers and leaders, waiting for us with coffee and breakfast. They were good to not mind the wild ones, the blank stares, the just barely hidden fears and tears. We'd been gone so long, I felt. Two and a half years was just so long. Leaving after our first term was hard, brutal, painful. The waiting to return even more so. Resting and patience came only in the months and months of God gently calling us home. 

Join me over at Velvet Ashes to read the whole story, for the remembering and the celebration of one whole year back home... again.

Jack was the first

11 February 2014

Every mother has a birth story. Some of us have several and all of them are memorable. I've never heard a birth story where my jaw didn't hit the floor in one way or the other. Just last week an acquaintance of mine shared her beautiful birth story with me, of her second child being born by the serene and comforting light of their Christmas tree. Every story carries with it the gift of creation, even the hard ones. 

I've got three, and Jack's was the first.

Eleven years ago I was 24 and, really, still a child. I cringe to think about it, squeeze my eyes shut tight, What were we thinking? It doesn't matter all that much what we thought as his coming and being was so beyond our control. It was a stroke of luck, my OB said. We weren't sure it would ever happen, nevermind so soon. But marriage at 20 guarantees babies will soon come, and he did.

I could go on and on about the pregnancy, about how I went to England and Ireland and came back pregnant, ringing Matt from Temple Bar and telling him I was ready, unaware a little 5-week gift hovered within me. I could tell you about all that weight gain and second dinners and Matt working two jobs. I could talk about the stretch marks or the attorney at my work who always managed to brush up against my belly in the hallway (I was quite wide, you see, and the only way to let me pass was to shimmy up against the wall so I could waddle by... Mr. S didn't care to shimmy). I could tell you about going into pre-term labour at a Coldplay concert, how we had to leave, and how disappointed I was as Matt curled up against my back when the contractions subsided. I was still pregnant and had missed my favourite song. And I could talk about the postpartum depression and the months of fear and shame.

But this is a birth story, and all those other memories pale in comparison.

Some babies come hard and fast, but not Jack. I was induced the day before his due date because I was huge and he was huge and high blood pressure was a real worry. The few weeks prior were already spent on modified bed rest and when the needle refused to go down at my last appointment, I was told to pack my bags and check in. I stood in my dad's basement and cried as Matt hurried to finish the crib, all the worries of being, you know, A MOTHER.

We checked in and waited. Watched a KU game. Ate some Taco Bell. Contractions were on and off in the night and by 6am I was hooked up to Pitocin, bringing horrible, long-lasting contractions. The needles of the fetal monitor would rev up and never quit, one right after the other for hours. An epidural at noon brought sweet relief and some sleep and within an hour, we were ready to go.

Except, he wasn't ready.

Four hours of pushing and narcotics and back spasms and a second epidural later, Jackson Matthew was born. I'd spiked a fever at some point and he'd already passed meconium and, though responsive, was lethargic and suffering some wicked road rash on his head. I've been told there was an actual ledge (I had passed out by this time) and a squad of nurses and doctors rushed him to another room. My parents were in a fit, having heard nothing for hours, expecting the news at any minute. Matt emerged a new dad at 4:55pm. He was fine, but not quite fine. Something was off.

jack and mom 2

They brought him to me to nurse and he'd wake for just a few seconds and doze back to sleep, uninterested in eating, too exhausted to cry. This 9 pound, 6 ounce brute was just as wrecked as I was and within a few hours they decided to keep him in the NICU and dose him with antibiotics. The heel pin-pricks didn't stir him, not even the circumcision caused him to cry. There was an infection somewhere.

Two days later I checked out and we left him there. We slept at my dad's, a short 5-minute drive away. In a NICU full of preemies, our brute laid naked under a heat lamp, a tiny IV taped to his hand. I could feed him some pumped breastmilk through a tube attached to my pinkie, rock him for a few minutes. Valentine's Day was spent at a cafe near the hospital, without him. Finally, on the fifth day, he was alert and stable enough to come home.

We have no idea what went wrong, the only clue being the meconium and my fever. And really, that's the only thing to have ever gone wrong since. This child, his head is hard as stone. He's fallen and been dropped on it so many times, we must've knocked loose the reading comprehension part, kicking it into overdrive. He's fit as a fiddle, tall and lean. Not a bother on him, as they say here. Our sensitive lad, our hugger and writer. Giver of kisses, he asks me, "How was your day? What was your favourite part?" 

Today? My favourite part of today is you.

Antsy wonderings on the coming spring

07 February 2014

A strange thing happened this week, super tiny and insignificant to the naked eye. I started following an indie radio station from my hometown, who happened to follow me back, and then an email that I'd been added to their list of Kansas City writers. I felt conflicted and, albeit, a little bit shamed. No, I think, like a reflex, like a gasp of air after emerging from a wave. I'm not a writer, not in Kansas City, not really worth following. 

I'm a fraud, I think. I think this a lot.

But I smile anyway. Twitter doesn't lie, I hope.


Every few months or so I get super antsy about this blog. It's probably a seasonal thing, and with the ebb and flow of weather and responsibilities, I wonder what exactly it is I'm supposed to be writing about. I worry about the focus and goal of it, wonder if I should be concerned with growing it or just let it be an organic expression of our life here. I don't have any answers to any of those wonderings.

But I will say...

We are in a sweet time with Asher, our surprise baby, surprising us every day. I'm so grateful, once fearing I'd not be the mother I needed to be for him. But this morning my heart swells as we zip up his coat. He's taking his sister's pink backpack (with hearts, obviously) to school, all blonde wispiness and excitement. I am in love. So is Matt.

The eldest, the boy who turns 11 next week, is having a bit of trouble in school. Once a week he comes through the gates barely holding it all in, not from bullying or any such super serious goings on. But the self-esteem takes a hit occasionally, the hopes of a hoped-for reward dashed, and I can't ignore it. But I can't do much about it, either. A friend - a woman of valor and beauty and wisdom - tells me to send in the Powerful One, He who knows all and who actually has the power to bring change. So I will. Jack and I will go to Him, together.

And Ella? She is a steady force to be reckoned with, a fury of beauty. With a bad cough, as always.

How did these three become mine?


Today the sun brings such warmth and glory after so many days of wind and rain. I take Cocoa for a walk. Matt brings me coffee, kisses me goodbye as he heads out for the day.

It is February. Spring is nearly here.

Linking with Velvet Ashes

What I'm Into {January 2014}

01 February 2014

I remember as a child thinking it would be weird to start the years with a "Twenty" instead of "Nineteen." Two decades later I write a 14 next to my 20 and I'm in shock. My eldest is turning 11 in a week. We are entering our fourth year living abroad. My sister is getting married. 2014 is crazy, people. CRAZY.

But anyway, here's what happened in January:


Early in the new year I quickly finished Dust, the final book in the Wool series by Hugh Howey. As a whole, it was entirely unique, unlike anything I'd ever read. And even though I was worried that dystopian literature had been overdone as of late, Howey managed to create a world and plot so narrowly terrifying, I felt claustrophobic for days... then jubilant at the finale. It also left me with many ethical/philosophical questions about war, control, the human "need" to rebel, and if knowledge is indeed power... I don't want to spoil it for you, so may save a proper review for later. But you should read it. ALSO? Amazing heroine(s) at the core of the books. Bonus points.

Also read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain about the young, tumultuous marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. Somehow I've managed to pick two books, with artist/genius antagonists and their long-suffering wife/lovers originally from Oak Park, IL who move to Europe. :) A specific genre, to be sure! Although I knew Hemingway from his Chicago and Kansas City days, I've never read his work and only had a brief acquaintance with his philandering ways. Told from Hadley's perspective, with subtle passages highlighting Hemingway's inner turmoil, I found myself drawn to him just like she was. The passion that fills an artist's lungs to overflowing is an uncontrollable (unavoidable?) energy. I found myself wondering, though, how is it that so many talented, intelligent artists - men (and women) who have made the world more beautiful - are so ugly and desolate on the inside. Both Hemingway and Wright (from Loving Frank) seemed utterly unable to maintain a faithful love despite the purity and, perhaps, human naiveté with which they saw and contributed to the world. Is this the only way to create beauty, to find oneself bereft of it? Perhaps they're not any uglier than the rest of us, just better able to accept it, use it and maybe, hopefully redeem it...

Currently reading: Jesus Calling, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Bird by Bird, The Great Gatsby, The Long & the Short of it (written by my friend Annmarie Miles... will come back to this when I'm finished!).


Was there anything else but Sherlock on this month? This season had arguably more laugh-out-loud moments than the first two, though the final episode brought us to an even darker place than The Reichenbach Fall. Magnusson is absolutely terrifying, but the character of Mary saved the day. Funny, smart, dangerous. Loved her.

Other television viewing included finishing up Spooks (I can't even talk about it!) and catching up with The Good Wife on Netflix (I now have an insatiable desire to buy dress suits).


A slow movie month, but thanks to the husband's illness we were able to finally watch Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (sad to say I loved the trailers for it more than I loved the actual film, though it is certainly spectacular and troubling) and rescreening an old favourite, The Royal Tenenbaums (the thing about this poignant movie is, though it may not be fit for mass consumption due to "adult" themes, it is absolutely overflowing with redemption and reconciliation; also, hilarious).


Not much new... still listening to Reflektor (if you're a fan of Arcade Fire or Rainn Wilson, make sure to watch this short video from Metaphysical Milkshake) and downloaded Jars of Clay's latest, Inland.

my usual haircut / "Give me the Tina Fey!" I say.

  • Friends nearby who offer me lifts and coffee late in the day and playdates for our dogs
  • Writing group, even on the intense days, and the intimacy that comes from shared stories
  • Celebrating the book launch of a friend who's chased (and caught) his dreams, over and over again
  • Rainy mornings with nothing to do but lay in bed and drink coffee
  • Related: kids who - mostly - play well on their own on said rainy mornings
  • The days getting longer
  • Designing some images (and making new friends) for a new site for women serving cross-culturally
  • Friends who come over for THEIR birthdays
  • A fix for our car that only required buying a litre of oil
  • A couple of brief mornings in the city
  • Talking with my dad during his trip to India, rare times when we were the only ones in the family awake, seeing and hearing his thoughts "face to face"
(January was an intense, busy month and I'm realising I didn't take all that much time to enjoy it. People got sick and cars got fixed and many things were on the to-do-list, and it was mostly cold, rainy and dark. I'll try to pay better attention in February.)

For other things I love, visit me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram



Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.
Romans 13:10 {NIV UK}

Linking up with Leigh Kramer again this month. Tell us, what were YOU into? New books, music, movies I should know about? I've gotta do something with my life now that Sherlock is over again.