“Feed My Goats”

Sunday morning I sat in the second pew (our special spot) next to my 15-year-old daughter–which is something I treasure during these days of social distancing and family seating. She had packed up for camp the night before and given me detailed instructions on how to feed and care for her three young goats.

Our friend, Craig, was sharing a communion lesson from Luke 15–emphasizing how greatly God values each of us. When he came to verse six where the shepherd calls to his friends and neighbors saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost,” Ana smiled up at me. “I would do that for one of my goats!” And she would. Those goats are her babies. She spends hours with them every week, and doesn’t mind when they nibble on her. Nearly all of her spending money is cheerfully designated to goat expenses. When she is not with them, she worries about them. She asked me to send her a picture of them every morning while she is at camp.

Because I know how much they mean to her, I take the responsibility of caring for them while she is away very seriously. Because I love her, I love her goats. I’m sure you know where I am going with this. John 21:15-19 relates the story of Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus. Peter had denied Jesus three times, and three times Jesus entrusts Peter with the work of his own heart… “Feed my lambs”… “Tend my sheep”… “Feed my sheep.”

As I sat taking in the rest of the communion lesson, I thought: If I would not neglect my daughter’s little goats because she loves them so, how can I neglect my brothers and sisters–the sheep for whom Jesus searched, sacrificed and celebrated in Luke 15 and with his very life? How can I sometimes become so absorbed in my own concerns that I forget to follow up on the needs of those around me? But wait–my mind protested. There are too many! This is also true. Ana has three pretty little doelings. That is a number I can get my mind around. All of Christ’s sheep is not. I am not the Good Shepherd. I never will be and was not meant to be. I cannot feed all the sheep. I could be overwhelmed by that and give up, or I can be committed to doing something every day toward the end of tending his sheep–loving his lambs.

The apostle John made this connection long ago and lays it out beautifully in 1 John 3 & 4. He concludes simply, “And this commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Sometimes I just need a living, bleating reminder ;).

I am not exactly white.

I am not black either. I am sort of Hispanic, but grew up so completely “non-Hispanic” that I never really identified myself as such. I did finally learn to speak Spanish in college–so that’s something. I remember sitting as a new student in Miss Campbell’s first-grade class in the little mountain town of Dickey Prairie, Oregon. The girl who was assigned to sit next to me protested, because she did not want to sit next to “a Chinese girl.” I really don’t remember anything else of what was said to me that year. Hurtful words stick.

In fourth grade (now in Virginia) I remember being asked in the hallway if I was black or white and feeling confused about how to answer. That confusion has lingered into adulthood when I fill out census forms and the like. Sometimes I check multiple boxes. Sometimes none at all.

A couple of years ago I shared on Facebook about an unpleasant experience. Two nasty men in a Kroger parking lot (this time in Kentucky) shouted angrily at me that I should “Go home!” I’m really not sure where they thought I should go since I have been asked at different times if I was Mexican, Indian, Italian, Egyptian, etc. Given the political climate at that moment, I am guessing they thought I was Muslim and from somewhere in the Middle East.

Several years ago a co-worker of Greg’s made a comment about what “kind of women” Greg must like considering who his wife is. Greg related the story to me in the context of explaining some of the challenges of the environment he was working in. To him the words were inappropriate because of the objectification of women that they represented. That certainly offended me as well, but I also explained to Greg that it felt degrading to be separated from my peer group as some sort of “other” because my skin is darker than average. That surprised Greg, and his response surprised me. “I’ve always thought of it as a good thing that you are different. It is something special about you–unique and beautiful.”

All that is to say that skin color and ethnicity are extremely complex in our society. Sometimes they are linked to cultural differences. Often they are not. Each of us has a very different perspective on their significance based on our experiences. I have shared several stories on Facebook lately that I felt gave voice to some of the discrimination that many Americans of African decent regularly receive. My intent was not to engage in political combat, but just the opposite–to provide an opportunity for those in a different position to consider another’s perspective.

The “us” and “them” gap among us is growing wider at a startling pace, and the spirit of judgement and cruelty coming from multiple directions alarms me. I don’t have anything unique to say except that, as one who has never been an “us” or a “them” (in so many senses), I would beseech us to stop seeing people as categories. There is no thing that “white cops” do. Every police officer is an individual person who makes individual choices. There is also no way that “black men” are. I heard the opinion expressed recently that it is understandable that black men are targeted by law enforcement because they commit more crimes. No, no and no. One person is not accountable for the actions of any other person simply because their skin is a similar hue.

I do not see a political solution to this festering wound in our national side. I know you want one, and I’m sorry. You may disagree with me, and I’d be happy to hear your ideas. Personally, my only answer is love. And love, at the very least, involves listening. It involves listening to empathize and understand, not to fire back our own opinion.

Today we cannot change history. We can contribute to the future, but we cannot control its outcomes. But today we can love. Let us love those who feel marginalized by listening to theirs stories and asking what we can do to help. Let us love our police officers. Let us show them respect and lighten their load. Let us appreciate those who are protesting. They are living out one of the most treasured parts of our American tradition. Let us love those who have done ugly, unthinkable things by having compassion on their benighted souls and praying for repentance. Let us even do the hard work of loving those who see things very differently from us–striving always to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“…Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

Joy in the Process

I always find myself waxing philosophical during gardening season. How can you not, really–being out under a bright, spring sky with the thrill of damp soil under your feet? The body is exhausting itself in a refreshingly primordial way, but the mind is delightfully free.

This time of year I look for any possible excuse to get my toes in the earth. If dinner is ready a half-hour early, I’m out the door and end up serving it a half-hour late. I start making deals with myself. Do this one household task, and then you can go out to the garden. Keeping the garden weeded is a job that requires constant diligence. I know from experience that if I neglect this task for even as much as a week, I will get bogged down and may never catch up.

But, crazy as it may be, I truly love weeding the garden. I enjoy the freshness of a just-weeded row. I enjoy the physical exertion. I enjoy the challenge. And I enjoy the prospect of mature vegetables. Yesterday morning was particularly hot, and I had to take frequent breaks to catch my breath. One moment, when I stopped to look over what I had done and what was still to be done, I thought, if I didn’t love this work so much, I would be totally overwhelmed. I can never get it all done at once. Today I weed these three rows–tomorrow those three, then those, and then the herb bed and the asparagus, the flowers… By the time I am two steps into the process, the first needs doing again. Still, it is my favorite part of each day.

Then I began to think about how much training my children is like weeding the garden. We focus on teaching a certain habit or meeting a particular need and then we move on to the next challenge only to realize that weeds are popping up again in the first row.

I often fail to take the same joy in the process of teaching my children the same principles over and over that I do in weeding the same herb bed over and over. Instead, I find myself frustrated or discouraged. And when a particularly big, deep-rooted, thorny weed presents itself, rather than tackling it with all the gusto of a gardener, I am tempted to lay down my trowel and give up.

Now, I will give myself some grace. Raising caring humans is much harder than growing cucumbers. It is not only daily; it is all day, every day. It is not only physically taxing; it is extremely emotionally costly. And the stakes are infinitely higher.

And yet, my gut tells me that a small change in mindset could yield big rewards. If I consider my task to be the training itself, rather than the production of a well-formed person… If I find my joy in the toil of each moment–even in the repetition–instead of holding out for fruit–the bearing of which is largely outside of my control… Perhaps my children will find me less often impatient. Perhaps I will be less often burdened by discouragement or the fear of failure. Perhaps I will make that change right now.

When the Son of Man Comes, Will He Find Faith on the Earth? Luke 18:8


I had a strange thought the other day.  I was actually thinking about our foster son and the uncertainty of his future, but about how peaceful and well he is right now, and I thought–Wouldn’t it be a good time for Jesus to come back? 9115E4B1-2A57-4284-8963-F7D70BDB61CB Then I considered the larger picture of pain and economic upheaval, and I still thought, Wouldn’t it be a good time for Jesus to return? 

Let’s pause right there.  This is not going to be an article full of apocalyptic predictions.  I do not pretend to have, or even aspire to, expertise in that area.  I have been known to pray, “Maranatha”–Come, our Lord, and to cling to the promise of Revelation 22 and the healing of the nations.  Much suffering surrounds us even when we are not undergoing a world-wide pandemic.  Right now, though, when the prospect of the end of the age is almost tangible, the question that echoes in my heart-beat is rooted, not so much in heaven, but in daily life.  If He were to return today, what would it look like for Him to find us faithful?


As I considered this question under the current conditions, I realized that it distills to the same two elements that Jesus laid out in Matthew 22:37-38–“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The most fundamental aspect of faithfulness is maintaining a mind and heart that are oriented to the Lord.  Every afternoon at 5 p.m. I “tune in” to WFPL to hear our governor address KY on the day’s state of affairs with regard to COVID-19.  In the mornings I check my BBC News app. for updates on what is happening in the country and the world.  At those moments my mind and heart are turned toward the latest breaking news of our present reality so that I can know how to respond personally and with compassion.  This is important, but of infinitely greater importance is the daily tuning of my center to my Creator.  This is prayer.  This is reading and pondering the word of God.  But it does not end there.  It is the knowledge that “whatever [I] do, in word or deed, [I] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).  It is submitting my every thought to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)–whether it is an anxious thought (Matthew 6:34), an angry or judgemental thought (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) or a temptation to give in to discouragement (Galations 6:9).  It is remembering in every word that I speak and every decision that I make–from the expression on my face to the way that I use my time–that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galations 2:20).

Really, I could stop there, because the Godward orientation of our hearts is the spring from which all faithfulness flows, but Jesus did continue, and a few more points seem particularly prescient in this moment.  This is a strange time to think about loving our neighbors, because we cannot even talk to our neighbors unless we are careful to maintain a six-foot distance.  If someone we know is sick, we cannot take them a pot of soup.  We are nervous sending cards or picking up groceries for people.  Many of us, though, have a few “neighbors” toward whom the opportunity to serve has actually increased–those of our own household.

This time has been a good reminder for me that my foremost sphere of Christian service is in my own home.  I am always amazed at how Jesus, being “in very nature God” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) did not take on in his daily life the physical and emotional needs of the whole world.  He was strikingly present with the few that were before Him–even the one.  He stopped for the blind beggar that everyone was trying to silence (Luke 18:35-43).  He said, “Let the children come to me,” (Luke 18:16).  He took time to talk to the bleeding woman, even though she had already been healed–enabling her to “go in peace” (Luke 8:43-48).  He touched the leper in Luke 5.  Wherever He was and whatever he was doing, even as He kept His eternal purpose in mind (Luke 9:51), He saw the needs in front of Him and was moved to action.

Sometimes–home constantly with our families who seem ceaselessly hungry and endlessly capable of making messes, who need to be taught and require extraordinary amounts of conflict mediation–we may feel that, like Jesus, we do not even have time to eat (Mark 6:30). We may, also like Him, need to carve out some time alone (Mark 6:32).  But what power and significance can infuse our daily interactions when we remember that in the simple service of those before us we are living like our Lord (John 13:14-15).

For many of us the ways that we are accustomed to loving our neighbors beyond the small circle of our families have seemed to be cut off.  We cannot offer hugs and smiles of encouragement to one another.  IMG-7227We cannot visit those that we know are lonely.  But, a beautiful thing that I have seen through this time is an increased daily reaching out to strengthen one another–making sure that everyone is “o.k.”  Even my kids are sending and receiving letters (real, hand-written letters) of encouragement.    This reminds me of Hebrews 3:13–“Exhort one another daily as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Another door wide open to us now in “loving beyond” is sacrificial giving.  We are facing a time when finances are insecure (to say the least!).  It is tempting to pull in and protect ourselves.  I am reminded of the example of the Macedonian churches in 1 Corinthians 8 of whom Paul says, “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”  Many face dire need at this moment–near and far.  There are medical needs and there is hunger.  How can we help?

As we are faithful in these things a wonderful thing happens–our faith itself grows and our focus shifts from ourselves to the Lord and others so that we can…

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that we may become blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and depraved generation in which we shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV).

Because we know that, whether it is tomorrow or in 100 years,

The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.


Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,” (2 Peter 3:10-12).


Raising Kids in the Chocolate Factory


Elodie’s class recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in school, and she came home begging to watch the classic 1970’s version for family movie night.  I had some misgivings about the movie’s psychedelic creepiness, but we decided they were old enough to handle it.  It turned out that I was more disturbed by Wonka’s bizarrisms than any of the kids were.  And the movie’s main lesson (which is communicated quite blatantly, while somehow not seeming preachy) came through loud and clear–kids who get whatever they want, whenever they want it become selfish, demanding and downright nasty.


Wonka and his sidekick “Slugworth” seem sinister at first, but it is Veruca Salt’s mother who most unsettles me.  She is a mild-mannered woman who sits doing needlework while her daughter rages about all the things she “must have.”  She is frightening because I see something of myself in her.  The only words she speaks are to express in her sweet, motherly tone that, “The thing that matters with kids is happiness–happiness and harmony.”

We all want those things for our kids, right?  Happiness and harmony.  I know I do.  And we live in a time when we have extraordinary power to provide them–at least temporarily.  If we are driving and the children are hungry, we will usually not have to wait more than ten minutes before a fast food sign presents the solution.  There will likely even be multiple options so that we can be be picky about which instant meal we want to eat.  If they are bored at home, I can point them to dozens of ways they can entertain themselves.  They can color, paint, read, build with Legos, build with blocks, build marble rollers, put puzzles together, play board games, play dress-up, build forts out of blankets… We even have effortless technology available to us when we choose to use it.  If our kids are lonely or extra-needy, we spend “special time” together going out for lunch, to get ice-cream or to the library.  We can also easily plan “play dates” with friends and neighbors.  When they “need” shoes we go buy them, or just click on “Amazon” and have them delivered to our house–the next day!

Many times I have lamented with my friends about how hard it is to raise kids who are not spoiled in such an environment.  I am not saying that any of these things are bad.  They are not.  They are luxuries that we enjoy, but many of which we, and certainly our parents, did not enjoy as children.  To our grandparents they would have been unimaginable.  They are luxuries that have become the norm.  They have been “non-luxuri-ized.”  We ourselves have come to expect them, while largely maintaining awareness that they are perks of prosperity that we could live without.  Our children have come to expect them without this awareness.  This is what we call “entitlement,” and it is one of the greatest challenges to parenting in this millennial milieu. 

About ten years ago I began to notice entitled attitudes in my then five and seven-year-old.  We had a trip planned that summer to visit our cousins who were living in an extremely remote area in the Andes mountains of Peru.  I cherished a tentative hope that seeing the struggle of daily life for the people of the Peruvian highlands would help my children to be more grateful.  Here is the amazing thing–it worked–WHILE WE WERE IN PERU.  They stopped complaining.  They stopped begging for things.  We were cold most of the time that we were there (very high altitude).  Our skin was dry.  We had few options regarding what we ate (lots of potatoes cooked over cow-dung fires).  The beds we slept on were extremely uncomfortable, and our toilet was a five-gallon bucket.  Yet, they did not complain (or, at least, so much less that I remember it as non-existent).  I rejoiced to think that my children had been cured of being spoiled. It was a rude awakening when we reached the Miami airport and their old patterns immediately reemerged.

When I later reflected on our time in Peru, I realized that it was not the struggles of the people around them that affected our children’s attitudes.  These they accepted as a matter of fact.  What seemed to have made the difference was the simple unavailability of luxuries.  Why beg for what does not exist?

So, what can we do about this?  I might long to return to the time when Mary and Laura were thrilled by a tin cup and a piece of peppermint candy for Christmas, but that is simply not the world in which we live.  Some choose, for this and other reasons, to remove themselves from association with modern society either through distance or counter-culture.  The relational cost of this choice is high.  Others that I know have successfully established an extremely simple lifestyle from their family’s inception even within a mainstream context.  A good friend of mine happened to mention that her children had eaten oatmeal (made with water) for breakfast every day of their lives.  Wow.  Here I thought I was doing well by alternating whole grain options and staunchly avoiding the likes of Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles!  Perhaps, if we were to begin our parenting journey again, we would choose such a course.  But that is not where we are, and I believe that a major reversal at this stage would be counter-productive.  I have also seen in myself that such radical stances have their own pitfalls.

This meditation, though, is not intended to discuss what we can’t do, but what we can.  In mulling this question over with my husband, I reached the conclusion that the bottom line is not how much we have or don’t have, but our perceptions of those things.  It is the “I deserve to have because everyone else has” mentality that destroys gratitude, and that can be just as much present when we are privileged as when we are not.

That insight led me to consider what things I take for granted.  There are surely more than I have any idea, but food probably tops the list.  I expect that, not just food, but healthful, satisfying food will be available when I feel the need for it.  I struggle to remain cheerful when we are traveling through some out of the way place and McDonald’s is our only lunch option.  But there is one thing that completely transforms my attitude toward food:  fasting.  My oldest son and I were just laughing together the other day about how, when we are fasting, that pack stale Cheezits that someone left in the door of the car suddenly looks incredibly delicious.  And for days afterward it seems nearly miraculous to be able to sit down to a normal meal.  I say this light-heartedly, but speak in earnest.

Fasting certainly jump-starts my gratitude when it comes to food, but I have noticed that another tool more subtly molds my appreciation:  consistent moderation.  A year or so ago I realized that my life was too much controlled by sugar intake and decided to give up most sugar (see A Day in Food).  The results have been interesting.  I generally no longer desire sugar, but when I do, on a special occasion, indulge in something dark chocolaty or creamy and berry-filled, I enjoy it more than I ever did before–unencumbered by the heaviness of over-satiation.

Lightening bolt–there I have it–my two-pronged plan of attack on what Stan and Jan Berenstein called “the galloping green gimmies”:  FASTING and MODERATION.  About now I am guessing that someone might be getting concerned.  Fear not, I am not going to withhold food from my children.  I do plan to be more cognizant of consistent moderation and to practice periods of family fasting from specific privileges such as technology and eating out.

One way that I have begun to address these issues and seen immediate fruit relates to a long held tradition in our home affectionately (or maybe possessively) referred to as “my morning show.”  I admit that it was to preserve my own sanity that I allowed this habit to develop.  Through the years of homeschooling with nursing babies and toddlers (not to mention goats and cows to be milked) an extra hour of quiet to get myself together and plan for the day was a great help.  We have allowed whichever of our kids was cartoon-loving age to pick one “morning show” from PBS kids most days.  Since we never had more than two at that stage at a time it didn’t get out of control–until we added a third “little” through foster care.  Even then, it took a long time for us to fully recognize the problem.  The strain of managing blended relationships and new (challenging) behavior patterns was so great that every half hour of peace seemed too valuable to lose.  But this year they all started school (away from home), and the cost of time spent in front of a screen sky-rocketed.  That was time they weren’t telling us about their day, getting piano lessons from their older siblings or building bridges across the stream behind the barn.  An hour and a half was way too much.  It was time for a radical reformation.  I knew if it wasn’t done “fair” upheaval would ensue, so I made a plan.  Elodie gets to pick one on Monday (they can all watch).  None Tuesday because they have fencing practice and, so, less home time.  Javonte picks Wednesday and Ethan Thursday.  None again Friday because we have family movie night.  Saturday morning they each get to pick one as a weekend treat. That reduced their screen time to about 1/4 of what it had been.  Up until now they had been very “entitled” about their morning show.  I was constantly reminding them that it was a privilege and not a right.  I truly expected resistance to the new arrangement, but they received the change cheerfully and their attitudes toward their shows have been transformed.  They no longer fight about whose “turn” it is (it helps to have a plan!), and Saturday mornings have become a time of jubilation.  “Wild Kratts” and “Odd Squad” still have a place in our home, but it is a smaller space and a happier one.

That, I believe, is the lesson I’ve learned about luxuries in general.  When constantly consumed, they become our baseline expectation and inversely affect our gratitude and our happiness.  In other words, they become greedy monsters that steal our joy.  We live in a time and place in which extravagance and comfort reign.  Only if we are thoughtful and intentional can we enjoy the benefits of this abundant life in their proper place and keep them from making us their slaves.

We Carry Them in Our Hearts


Our fifth child came to us the day before Thanksgiving wearing a black coat two sizes too big.  The hood pulled up over his ears gave him a “tough-guy” look and he kept his head down and did not speak more than a syllable for the first hour.  The plan was for him to stay for a five-day respite over the Thanksgiving holiday, but he seemed so completely closed-off that I thought, “Oh my, will I be able to love this child—even for five days?”


I have loved him for four months now, and I call him “our fifth child” even though he is fourth in age order, and we do not know how long he will be ours to love.  Loving him has been easy and terribly hard.  It was the dogs that first enticed him to take off that coat and play so that we could see those twinkling hazel eyes and hear his contagious laughter.  In those first few days we discovered his wild energy and his adorable, half-intentional sense of humor.  I learned how hard and fast the mommy instinct kicks in when you tuck a child into bed who doesn’t know you, but has no choice but to depend on you for everything.


After five days (that seemed so much longer), I dropped him off at an unfamiliar school and drove away—sobbing and begging the Lord to guide is future.  Later that morning I got a text asking if we could keep him longer.  If you have read Madeleine L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time, I’m sure you remember the moment when Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace are heading into the strange, frightening land of Camozotz and Mrs. Whatsit gives them each a gift to help them through the trial they will face.  To Meg she says, “I give you your faults.”  Of course, this infuriates Meg at the time, but by the end of the journey we all understand—sometimes our greatest weaknesses are deeply connected to our greatest strengths (and vice-versa).  This has certainly proved true for us, and I often thought of Mrs. Whatsit during those chaotic first weeks, and imagined her saying those words to me, “Lorna, I give you your faults.”

One of those faults that gave rise to strength in this situation is that Greg and I have always struggled to manage details.  Some of you may be among the friends or family to have gotten a frantic call from us in our early years because we had planned to go out of town and forgotten that we had a dog.  Thank you.  We have grown up a bit, and we work tenaciously to compensate for our natural lack in this area, but it is still a constant struggle.  Along the way, however, we have learned to have loads of grace with one another and have become really good at altering our plans on the fly.  Flexibility is an asset in our case born of deficit, but it served us well when we got the message on that cold Wednesday afternoon when my mom had just moved in and we had two sets of company on the way that a six-year-old boy needed an emergency respite placement—in one hour.  It also served us well when we were asked (twice) if we could keep him for a couple more weeks, and then for an indefinite amount of time.

A six-year-old boy was not our plan.  We had dreamed of fostering and adopting since we were engaged (18 years ago), and, so, had had plenty of time to pray, consider, read, seek counsel, etc., and we were firm on providing a home for a child or children younger than our youngest biological child.  We still don’t know if we did right in accepting this placement.  Am I saying too much in admitting that?  Perhaps, but I don’t know how this story could be real if I did not say it.  In the moment of decision, we could see only a precious, vulnerable child who had grown to trust us, whose history did not include the behaviors which were most frightening to us, and who had been accepted by and blended well with our biological children.  We had weathered a few “storms” with him including prolonged yelling, hiding and physical aggression toward our biological son.  We felt peace that God had given us the strength and patience to deal with those things.  We couldn’t see then how deeply our youngest two biological children would be affected introducing a child of their own age with a history of trauma into our family.  I’m sure that we still don’t know.

The three “littles” now are five, six and seven.  Our seven-year-old (boy) has experienced a degree of secondary trauma through bearing the brunt of his younger brother’s aggressions and by feeling displaced from his role in the family.  Even as we watch the two boys bond beautifully, we are still dealing with deep emotional confusion and insecurity in our Ethan.  Our five-year-old, Elodie, has become a frequent “third wheel.”  She also tends to be the target of criticism when our newest young man is struggling with his own confused emotions.  Both Ethan and Elodie have been exposed to ideas that we would have preferred to shelter them from until they were older.  Yet, both have also gained character traits that, if they persevere in them, will prove invaluable in life.  I have seen Ethan grow from approaching conflict with complete self focus to begin to sacrifice in order to make peace.  I have been amazed by his ability (when he chooses to employ it) to lead his younger siblings in play so that both are included.  I have watched our littlest peanut grow more independent and confident in herselfwhether or not she has her brothers’ approval.  I rejoice when I hear her say to one or the other who has said something unkind, “I’m not going to worry about you saying that, because it isn’t true!”  I have also been grateful for the way that older siblings have stepped in to help her find her place when she feels left out.  I have mourned with Ethan and Elodie as they struggled with feeling like they had “lost” each other, but also treasured watching them realize that “each other” was a gift to be cherished.  I had never before heard them call each other their “best friend.”  In these and so many other moments, anxiety and hope battle within me daily.

Neither could we see at the beginning of December how deep our attachment would grow to the sweet little tornado that had entered our lives, and his to us.  How can I describe to you the first time that he played with my hands in church (as all my little children have done) or how he has just started to hug and snuggle on his own initiative?  About hearing him ask, “How many days have I been in foster care?” (more that 365) and knowing the helpless frustration behind the oft-repeated words, “I’m tired of this!”  So much more…holding him like a baby when the loss of a dog triggered loss upon loss that he cannot understand.  Hearing him ask me to help him pray.  I just heard the words “I love you” for the first time, and the stuffed puppy that we gave him for Christmas sometimes calls me “Mama.”  He has come so far in his ability to handle conflict without exploding or running away.  He has made significant strides in kindness, generosity, self-control and respect.  He no longer wanders restlessly from place to place when he has free time, but plays in a settled, focused way.  He laughs often, plays and works hard; loves exuberantly.   Still, he is often angry.  He can be mean (but then, so can my other childrenso can I), and that meanness is most often directed toward the most vulnerable member of our family.  What will that look like in a year?  In ten years?  I do not know.  And I do not know whether I will even have a choice about whether or not I am the one to “mama” him through those years.  Still, the choice weighs on me.  As a wise friend recently said to me, “We carry our children in our hearts.”  This is so truewhether or not we have carried them in our wombs.

A Day in Food


It’s been more than two years since I’ve written here; not because I haven’t had thoughts that wanted to be shared, but because nothing seemed quite significant enough to break the silence of the grief that accompanied our departure from Uganda. It seems a bit ironic, then, for this “first” post to be about food.  Perhaps this indicates a problem in my priorities :-).  Actually, it was sort of an accident that led me back to this space full of memories.  I happened to mention on Facebook earlier this week that, though I have long been a health-conscience eater–whole grains, whole foods, fruits and veggies, low sugar– I have still struggled with frequent blood sugar lows that left me unable to function without a snack every 2 hours.  I joked that I fed myself like a newborn baby.  This began somewhere around the time of the births of my first two children (late 20’s), and I thought that it would just be my way for the rest of my life.  I regretted the fact that I could no longer fast, but since my occupation is in the home (and most often in the kitchen), it is not difficult to plan frequent snacks into my schedule.  Recently, though, I decided to cut out almost all sugar.  I did this for two reasons:  1) As I have entered my 40’s, my weight keeps creeping up, and I wanted to stop it before it became too difficult.  And 2) The more I read about sugar, the more I became convinced that the outrageous levels at which we are consuming it as a society are doing great damage to our health. I say that I cut out “almost all sugar,” because I do not want to be controlled by dietary restrictions.  I still eat fresh fruit and other naturally occurring sugars.  I still drink my homemade kefir soda with the whatever sugar that is left after the three-day fermentation process.  I still have a couple of dark chocolate covered almonds several afternoons a week.  That small indulgence is very powerful in keeping rebellion at bay ;).  And I still allow myself an occasional treat for socially/emotionally significant reasons — like yesterday, when I ate half of a homemade apple cider doughnut at Mulberry Orchard with my kiddos.  It just seemed like a moment to share.  I was going to eat the whole thing, but it turned out that half was enough.  And like on my birthday when my friend, Nancy, made cherry pie with cherries from a local farm that she had canned the previous summer.  It actually, amazingly, had no added sugar.  It did have white flour, which I generally avoid, but it was so wonderful, so homemade and such an incredibly sweet gift that I not only had a generous piece, but ate it for breakfast for the next 2 days.  I have no regrets :).  So, you see, I am not a total sugar Nazi.


I also ruined my chances of receiving any scientific awards by changing another variable at the same time.  I began to focus my meals on protein and limit my consumption of even the whole grains that I love so much.  All this, as I said before, was about long-term health and weight control, not about blood sugar. It took me completely by surprise, then, when I began to notice that I no longer woke up hungry. My body didn’t ask for breakfast until 9 or 9:30 (I get up at 6:30, and used to eat almost right away.).  My typical 10 a.m. snack (“second breakfast”) was completely forgotten.  I did not notice hunger until – what do ‘ya know – lunch time.  You would have to have lived with me for the last 10 years to understand how radical a departure from the norm this is.  Around here, Mama doesn’t skip her morning snack!  As the homeschooling mother-of-four, I could not afford to get fuzzy-headed and grouchy just when everyone needed my attention.  If I feel need of the snack, I still eat it (usually sliced apples with almonds or natural peanut butter), but more often than not I don’t even think about food again until about 11:45 when it’s time to make lunch.  I still usually do have an afternoon snack, because it’s just a long time between noon and 6 p.m., but I am generally eating less, even at meals, than I used to.

Back to my original point (yes, I actually had one), I posted about this surprising (to me) change on Facebook, and several moms in similar positions of balancing the needs of multiple kiddos, housework, farm work, and less than infinite budgets asked for specific advice about meals, foods and how to make it all work.  I decided to write out my day in food.  I knew this would be way too long for FaceBook, and that brought me back to this trusty old blog, which, like a faithful friend, was always ready to listen.

So, here goes… I start my day with a cup of coffee, because I am not Superwoman and I just love it.  I make it the slow way, by boiling water and pouring it into a French press, and I treasure every step of the routine in the quiet dark. In the five minutes that it takes the coffee to steep, I put in my first load of laundry and lay all my books out for the day.  I don’t have a baby right now, and if I did, some of the gentle indulgences of this routine would be sacrificed for a time for a different kind of joy.  I use half and half, but no sugar.

Around 9:30, after I have planned my school day, spent some time in reading or prayer and gathered with my children for hymn singing, prayer and scripture memory, I eat my breakfast.  I feel like I’ve earned it by then :-).  For breakfast I alternate between a few options depending on when I have been to the store, what was in the budget for that week and what I feel like.  Option 1 – Cabot Creamery plain Greek yogurt with blueberries.  I like this brand because it is so creamy (I do not fear natural fats) that it requires no sweetening other than berries.  Option 2 – the same Greek yogurt with a few drops of liquid stevia and 1/3 cup of Ezekiel 4:9 cereal mixed in. I know this cereal is crazy expensive, but eating one third cup at a time it lasts.  Unless, of course, the children start asking for it, and, because it is such good stuff, you can’t say “no.”  Option 3 – steel cut oats (which I often make anyway for my children) with a pat of butter and a boatload of slivered almonds (about 1/3 c.).  I find no sweetener is needed, but my thirteen-year-old adds a few drops of stevia.  The rest of the family uses maple syrup which (I can’t even believe I am saying this) I really don’t miss.  If I am out of my yogurt and for some reason haven’t made the steel cut oats, I will cook up a couple of eggs with onions and whatever veggies I can quickly dice in.  That is option 4, and I tend to do it only about once a week because it is more time consuming and, for reasons unknown to me, just not satisfied as long.  Also, eggs everyday overwhelm me.

During the school morning, I hydrate myself with water, kefir soda and/or ginger tea (with  a little milk it feels almost like having another cup of coffee).  Kefir soda is probiotic and sparklingly wonderful, and tea makes me happy.

While the little ones have morning recess, I sneak in 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and maybe a shower. Then I drink more water.


Around noon we all eat lunch. In my ideal world I will have roasted vegetables, quinoa and chickpeas ready to toss together, warm and add a lemon herb sauce for an amazing and satisfying “power bowl” lunch.  I nabbed this idea from a local restaurant.  In reality, I don’t always find time to have these things ready.  In that case, while making sandwiches for little people, I look for some sort of low-carb leftovers – a piece of chicken, bowl of soup, etc.  If that fails I just roll together a piece or two of my kiddos lunch – meat and a slice of cheddar cheese.  When I have greens on hand, I also fill a bowl with them and call it salad.  In a real pinch, carrots dipped right into the peanut butter jar will keep you going.

Afternoons get a little crazy.  I usually have about an hour of school work left to finish with my second grader, sometimes a Spanish class to teach, older kids to run to lessons, practices, classes, etc.  Afternoon snack (still a necessity) often gets thrown in a bag and taken on the road.  Fruit and nuts are my go-to.  Very hunter-gathererish of me.  Trader Joe’s sells 50% less salt roasted peanuts and almonds for a reasonable price.  The kids like the peanuts and I like the almonds.  The less salt makes a huge difference.  I know I should be eating them soaked, rather than roasted, but, that is just not my reality right now.  Maybe someday.


Suppers are a simple attempt to balance my convictions about healthy eating, budget keeping and pleasing everyone.  Typically I plan our weeks’ dinners on Monday before I do my grocery shopping (while my kiddos are at Cottage School – a luxury I realize not everyone has).  Monday evenings I get home late and exhausted from running errands and picking up younguns.  Also, my older kids play volleyball at the community center at 6:15, so I have to be quick. I t’s my “cheat night,” when I do something like whip together a re-fried beans and salsa, melt cheddar cheese on top and serve with Trader Joe’s black bean and quinoa tortilla chips.  Also a salad or berry / yogurt smoothie (I do add honey). Sometimes I even just get Trader Joe’s taquitos (can you tell I am obsessed?) to serve with guacamole and salad or smoothie.  It’s a compromise, but it gets us through.

The rest of the week is fairly predictable. One beef or pork-centric supper–such as whole-grain pasta with meat sauce (onions, garlic, pepper, meat, tomatoes), my mama’s beef stew, roast w/veggies, or, this time of year, “pumpkin stuffed with everything good.”  Often there is also a bean-y meal like Puerto Rican rice and beans in honor of my daddy (though I still can’t make it like my Titi Sarita 😦 ), or something more daring from my favorite cookbook, “Simply in Season.”.  Usually once a week I roast a chicken and serve with brown rice and roasted green beans.  This is so easy, but looks rather impressive and satisfies everyone.  I use the chicken carcass to make broth for soup later in the week.  I don’t believe in “soup season.”  Every season is soup season.  It is the best meal because you can make it slowly or quickly at any point in the day and all in one pot.   can chop loads of vegetables while listening to “All Things Considered,” or just dump in the broth with a few cans of tomatoes garlic and basil when I’m in a super hurry.  Homemade sourdough bread (King Arthur’s Rustic Sourdough made with 1/2 sprouted whole spelt flour) and sliced fruit make for a luxuriant meal.  At least every other week, I try to work in a meal of pan-seared salmon–typically with whole grain couscous and roasted broccoli.  Sometimes I make pizza with the “amazing whole wheat pizza dough” recipe that I Googled 10 years ago.  If it’s Garden time I spend lots of time dicing and simmering tomatoes for the sauce. Most of the year, though, I just snazzy up plain tomato sauce with onions, garlic, basil and oregano. Those are my go-to is. Usually for one meal I get a little creative or desperate and look up something new or less familiar.  The new plan this school year is for Micaiah, my 15-year-old son, to cook dinner as part of an “Eating and Cooking for Wellness” class that, as you might have guessed I invented to satisfy a “Health” credit.  He can make whatever he wants, but the catch is that he has to follow the principles outlined in Michael Pollan’s great, little book “In Defense of Food“.  Sometimes Greg offers to cook, and I stop thinking and just enjoy :-).  Sunday nights we usually do what I call the “leftover smorgasbord,” and try to eat up all the bits of things left in the fridge to clear it out for Monday shopping.

I meant to say this at the beginning, but I will add it now – I am not an expert in food, nutrition, cooking or anything else – just a real and very busy mama who believes that what we eat now will still be affecting us in decades to come.  My whole family does not follow all these guidelines.  They do eat what I serve them, but also still get a lot more sugar than I wish they did.  On that topic, my 13-year-old has some advice for cutting out sugar.  She says, “Peanut butter is your life.  Also make sure you have stevia.”  It seems she’s a bit more concise than I am :).



Sometimes a River Is Not Enough

Do you remember those moments in your life when you felt like you could cry for days and, somehow, it would still not be enough?  That is how I feel when I hug my friend Rehema.  We dampen each other’s shoulders and hold onto each other until we can stop shaking, because, for the first time in my life the words of the hymn, “If we never meet again this side of heaven,” are very real.  The Lord has closed a door for us here in Uganda.  He has made it clear that the best thing, the necessary thing, for our family is to move back to our home in Kentucky.  We have lived in Kampala for seven months now.  Seven months?  How can it be only seven months, I wonder, when I think of Rehema–my neighbor, my sister, my friend–and how we have called to each other over the wash line every morning.  How we have sat in the dark and cried for each other’s sorrows.  How we have huddled in the dawning chill with unbrushed hair and “lasos” around our shoulders and prayed.  When I think of her contagious laughter and how we have mothered each other’s children.

How can my heart not break when I think of Natasha picking me up off the floor when I had collapsed from blood loss?  When I remember how together we have mourned the lost who saw the narrow way and determined that the cost was too high.  How we grieved with young Janet over her sin and gloried in her new birth.  How we have helped each other grow through hard conversations and shared both the laughter and agony of motherhood.

Is seven months enough to have gained a brother/son of 25 years?  We sat across the table from Brian last Sunday night.  His countenance was heavy with grief as he said to Greg, “I just can’t imagine it.  How can you go when you are the one who showed me the way?”  And a river was not enough.  Nor was it when Hassan sat on our couch and asked, “Why?” with eyes disbelieving and full of hurt.

There are tears for the past and tears for the future.  For the moments we will miss in the coming weeks and months…When Peter and Mary, who so much desire repentance, make their relationship right in legal marriage and are washed in the waters of baptism.  Watching Evas and Aysha and the other “mamas” from the savings group blossom in their faith.  The growing up of all these little ones to whom I have been “Mama Lorna” the past seven months.

img_0164I will not get to say good-bye to Wanda, who has been a mother and friend to me for so much longer.  With whom I have shared the hope and despair of counseling young women, girls barely more than children, bearing children after the horror of rape.  Wanda, who has been my rock.  No, a river is not enough.

But I wouldn’t trade it–this time, and even these tears.  I would not trade all that God has taught us.  I am not strong right now.  I struggle to pray and am often distracted when I read the Bible.  Greg and I fumble over how to comfort one another each out of our own sadness.  Our children are, once again, revealing the stress of transition in their behavior.

But I have to laugh at myself also, because I see that the lesson is the same all over again.  No, I am not strong.  I am weak.  I am broken.  I am hopeful, but I am afraid.  Yet I, like the frightened disciples, can cry out to my Lord and know the blessed, “Peace, be still.”  “Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons, or men, or whatever it be, no water can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies.  They all shall sweetly obey thy will.  Peace, peace, be still.”  And I find that I could sing crossing the ocean once, and will sing crossing it again, “Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he hath the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.  All now mysterious shall be bright at last.  Be still my, soul.  The wind and waves still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”


The Shower of the Soul

Dry season is upon us here in Kampala.  Dusting has become a daily job (not that I actually do it everyday 🙂 ).  The broad leaves of the plants that grow by the roadside are heavy with a thick, red-brown coating, and I wouldn’t recommend riding a “boda” without sunglasses.

Last week, though, we got a good rain.  I felt the satisfaction of knowing that the gates, the walkways, the shrubbery and even the dirt roads were getting a wash.  It reminded me of something that has long encouraged my soul.  The Bible teaches that when we are baptized, oIMG_2097ur sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).  We are clean and new (2 Cor. 5:17).  Yet sometimes, truth be known, even as disciples walking the narrow road, we pick up some dust.  That is why God has given us the glorious gifts of repentance and confession.  The scriptures reveal that when we repent and turn to God “times of refreshing” come “from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-21).  We are told that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Sounds a lot like cool rain on a grit-weary traveler.

Many believe that when the Bible speaks of confession it refers only to confessing to God, but James 5:16 teaches us to confess our sins “to one another.”  As a young Christian I dreaded the confession of my sins.  I felt overwhelming shame, fear and stress whenever I realized that I had done something or harbored some attitude that ought to be confessed.  I would put it off until just the right moment, and carry the weight of it in all my interactions.  Somewhere along the way the Lord impressed on me that confession is a blessing and not a trial.  Baptism is the great bath of our souls.  Repentance and confession are our daily showers.  Somewhere along the way I also realized that, while all sin is shameful, the shame is before God more than other believers.  If he already knows about the angry tone I used with my children or the fearful doubt that I allowed to pervade my thoughts, why would I hide them from my fellow-sojourners who also battle their own sinful natures?  I learned instead of stewing and procrastinating to seek the refreshment of confession as quickly as possible.

Two more blessings that we receive when we regularly cleanse our souls through confession are depth of fellowship and power over sin.  1 John 1:9 says that “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”  I believe that the primary meaning of “walking in the light” has to do with living a godly life, but I also know that sin thrives in the dark.  When brought into the light, much of its power simply vanishes (James 4:7).  Our fellowship with one another deepens as we humble ourselves and allow others to minister to our need.  Finally, we pray for one another, and, as James tells us (right after his admonition to confess our sins to one another), “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”


Waiting for Love

I named her “Baby Love,” because it was too early to tell if she would have been a boy or girl.  I say “she” because that is my hunch, and I can’t stand “it” for a baby, no matter how small.

It was a Friday morning when the ultrasound showed no heartbeat and we began to wait. The doctor wanted to repeat the ultrasound after a week to confirm, but I knew.  It was not like any of my other pregnancies to bounce back from the first trimester at ten weeks.  So, for two weeks I considered it a blessing, but when the bleeding started, it was a heavy knowledge.

The waiting was such a strange place to be.  The fifth-pregnancy belly that I had fondly laughed at still showed.  The bulging veins still ached, but all the body of joyful anticipation was gone.  How could I be pregnant and not pregnant at the same time?

We told the children right away because I am not good at hiding things, and walked with them through their various levels of understanding.  “Will you still be pregnant?…  Where is the baby now?…  Will we have another baby?…  Can I still sing to the baby?…”

That afternoon I lay on my bed silently wiping away tears, when Elodie crawled in beside me.  As she chattered and played she kept sticking her doll under my shirt and saying, “Look, now there’s a baby in your belly!”  Watching her play through her confusion brought comfort.

Praying was hard.  I asked the Lord to help my body do what it needed to do quickly, but as I said the words, they were not what I wanted.

Looking back, those four days were a gift.  When the moment came, I was physically prepared and my heart was surrendered.  I spent two agonizing and beautiful hours with the Lord learning that when we are most broken He is closer than any person ever could be.  “[His] strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  That strength carried me through the next few days when unconsciousness due to blood loss led me into the world of painful and confusing medical interventions.  We will probably never know how much of that was necessary, but through it all there was peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:27

As a good friend who has grieved deep loss said to me, “Another part of our hearts reaching heaven first.  We shall see them and get to hold them there in a moment.”

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