Thank you is not enough, but thank you.

About a month ago, I finished reading Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers. I was riveted by this tale of four indomitable women, who were bound together through loss during the Roman siege of Masada. Women, who under different circumstances would have ostracized one another, instead protected one another. For me, the beauty of this historical fiction was in the way each woman’s past drew them to stand side by side with those who were suddenly not so different from themselves in their suffering. They could not save each other from their grief or from their pain, but they could fortify each other with unconditional love born in empathy.

My pregnancy radically changed my life. I am not alone in this. The conception of a child is life affirming and life altering. For some it’s pure joy, for some traumatic, and for some a mixture of both. Nearly five years later, my life is filled with unspeakable amounts of joy and love. The traumas I endured are always present, but they are slowly becoming my friends. I no longer need to ignore them, to pretend they don’t exist. I still shake uncontrollably, my heart pounding in my chest when I talk about them, but I can look at them now. I can appreciate them now. I can be thankful for them now. Yes, I would not be who I am today without them, so I am grateful for the blessings that they have brought about in my life. God brings healing and good in all situations, and my life and the life of my daughter are a testament to that truth.

I get emotional when I think about those who stood with me in my most terrifying, earth shattering, gut wrenching moments. I have never truly thanked them. Sometimes there aren’t enough words, sometimes you’re drowning and can’t properly think to form words, sometimes you can’t say thank you without becoming too vulnerable when you’re summoning all the strength you have just to go on. The words thank you will never be enough to adequately express the soul deep gratitude I have for the men and women who stood with me, for those who stood for me in my weakest moments. I am beyond thankful for these people.

I thank God for the woman who became my neighbor when I was about six months pregnant. Our daughters were born just a few weeks apart. I thank God she came over every day, that she was my first mommy group and that she never asked any questions. She just loved us. Thank you, to this woman, who brought over warm meals to feed us before our much prayed for journey back to Texas finally began. Thank you for driving us to the airport, for dragging our four giant suitcases, stroller, and two carry-on bags up to the check-in counter. Thank you for telling the woman behind the counter something in Hebrew, which in my stress and exhaustion I couldn’t comprehend, but that prompted her to let us to bypass the lengthy security checkpoint, and allowed you to help us through the terminal. I remember following you in shock when you beckoned me. You, my first mommy friend, hauled my suitcases through the airport, handed me your American cash leftover from your last trip overseas, and hugged us good-bye. I sat safely at the gate, my daughter entertaining those around us, repeatedly thanking God for miraculously getting us quickly and calmly through the first hurdle of our journey. I thanked God then, and I thank him now, every single day, for you.

I thank God for the woman with whom I basically grew up with, so to speak, in Israel. I’m so thankful for your inner and outer strength. You rise to any challenge and your heart is as warm and loving as it is fierce. Thank you to this soul sister, who walked and talked all over Tel Aviv with me, who never judged, only listened. Thank you for being my strength when I had none. Thank you for helping me pack, weigh, and re-pack our bags. I will never forget your superhuman strength, when dismayed I thought we would never get all of our luggage to fit in our tiny European size car, you said yes we will, and you lifted and pushed those absurdly heavy bags until all doors closed and we had room to sit. You are my hero and I thank God for you.

I thank God for my family, the family who financially, emotionally, and spiritually supported us. I will never have enough words to express how deeply thankful I am for all that you endured on our behalf. Your acts of selflessness went above and beyond what any daughter/sister/granddaughter could expect. Thank you for the bible verses you poured into me that fortified my faith that God would protect us. Thank you for the frequent overseas trips you made, for considering to relocate to be close to us, for never letting me become guilt ridden, and for restoring normalcy and peace in our lives. Thank you for being our bubble, our tribe, and our truthsayers. You are our greatest blessings.

I thank God for my childhood friend, my sister, my daughter’s godmother.  A steadfast woman of quiet strength, you would come over at the sound of any tear or fear in my voice. Thank you for being our safe-haven, for opening your home to us whenever we needed a peaceful place to go. Thank you for taking days off work to spend countless hours sitting in courthouse waiting areas. Your calm bolstered me. Your patience soothed me. Thank you for the kitchen dance parties and for filling the little person up with love. I am so thankful for you.

Thank you to my church growth group. What was perhaps to you a small act of kindness on Mother’s Day a year ago, was so much more to me. Still to this day, I am overwhelmed. Thank you for quietly handing me flowers and a small balloon, since my little one was too young to say “Happy Mother’s Day.” It meant the world to me and I still tear up when I think about it. I am so thankful that God has brought each of you into our lives.

Thank you to the family, friends and strangers who have prayed us through this journey. Thank you for coming alongside me without judgment, for teaching me what it means to stand next to someone in their darkest moments and to love them. Thank you will never be enough. But thank you.

 

 

 

 

Good Morning Prayers

Every morning on the way to school, my little love and I say our “good morning” prayer. As we drive, I say a little prayer for a day filled with safety, love, and gratitude. Then my sweet girl says her prayer. This morning she remained quiet after I finished, so I turned up the radio and we drove along peacefully. We were about a minute from her school when she urgently said, “Mommy! I didn’t say my good morning prayer!” She then earnestly prayed for my shin splints, before praying for my sister and her new baby. I noticed that her words were selfless and intentional. I told her that I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. She was quiet for a minute. Then she explained, “I think God told me to pray. He reminded me to pray. Not with words, I can’t hear him. I feel him in my heart.” My eyes were brimming with tears as we pulled up to her school, in awe of the way God moves in our lives. Hand in hand, we walked into the play yard. The hardest part of any day is the moment that I have to let that precious hand go and walk away. Today though, my momma’s heart was full of thankfulness and reassurance that my daughter is not only watched over by loving teachers, but that she is watched over, without fail, by a mighty and loving God.

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14

Love is in the Air

Love is in the air at our house. My four-and-a-half-year old has declared her love for herIce Skating little preschool friend, who has apparently already proposed marriage. They are getting married so that they can go on a date, as “that’s why you get married mommy.” Of course it is.

This budding, yet fast tracked relationship has brought up many interesting questions on both ends. Questions like:

Me: “Why do you like him?”

Little Person: “Because he’s funny and he punches me.”

Great.

Princess WalkingLittle Person: “How is it Mommy?”

Me: “What?”

Little Person: “When you are in love. Do you run away at midnight or do you just get married right away?”

Ummmm…

 

 

 

Me: “Do you play with him at school?”

Little Person: “No, I play with my friends. You can still play with your friends when you’re a girlfriend.”Miniature Cowgirl

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Little Person: “So after you have a baby with your husband, you get a new boyfriend?”

Crap.

Me: “It’s important to like someone who is funny and really kind, right? Not someone who is mean or who punches?”

Little Person: “Right. But I like it when he says he’s going to punch me and I scream NO and run away!”

I love the conspiratorial, uninhibited way she confides in me at this age. There’s no embarrassment, no fear that she shouldn’t tell me something, no self-doubt. What she feels is what she says, unquestioningly trusting me with the thoughts of her mind and heart.

ShadowsI know that there will come a time when her inner musings won’t be articulated so easily, and that questions will be sweat out before they are asked. I know that one day she may share things that might disappoint me or even break my heart. What is most important though, is that she feels safe to share, to confide, and to confess, believing, knowing, and trusting that she has a non-judgmental, safe place to fall. I’d rather hear too much, than too little. That’s why I pray that these precious, often hilarious, always earnest conversations are laying the groundwork for the tough discussions later on. Whatever the future may bring, I hope that in between the difficult questions, there will always be plenty of giggling about a special boy, crushes, and eventually, love. Like when she’s thirty;)


Dear Heavenly Father,

Please hold my daughter tightly in your loving arms. I pray that where I fail, you will fill in the gaps. I pray that you will bless our relationship, as we navigate our way along this journey as mother and daughter. I ask that you will guard and protect her heart and mind, imbuing each with wisdom and compassion. Thank you for the awesome and overwhelming privilege of being this little one’s mother. Amen.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Prayers

Image result for prayer quotes I love my job. I love my students. I’m blessed that when I leave home every morning, kiss my daughter good-bye, and head to “work,” that I feel fulfilled, that there is a God-driven purpose to my day.

photo 13That’s not to say that every day is easy. On the contrary, there are many tough days. Building and maintaining relationships with teenagers is taxing. On any given day, at any given hour, they will love you, they will hate you, and then they will love you some more. They test, push, exasperate, and surprise you. Opening your heart to care for young adults who are searching, not always down the right path, for who they are, creates a space of vulnerability within you that constantly worries for their future and their safety. Many of their stories break your heart and open your eyes to the world around you. You celebrate milestones, both great and small, and you cry in your empty classroom when you read what they share through their writing.

Short responses for example, that have nothing to do with the text they have read and should be analyzing, and are instead filled with sentences like “there is always hope” and “God is my best friend.” This from a student who barely escaped his country alive, after gangs dismembered and burned his brother’s body in the streets. God constantly reminds me of his presence in my classroom. He shows me why I fight for these kids’ attention, for their academic success, and for them to know their value.

photo 10My students fight for me too. They confide in me, ask about my daughter, leave me sweet notes, and tease me. They hush each other when they are too noisy, share their snacks and ask how I am doing. They strive to be good people, and they lift me up on my worst days as a teacher.

Days for instance, when bureaucracy thwarts classroom plans, when the powers that be determine that increased testing takes precedence over learning. State testing is a double-edged sword. Teachers are measured by their students’ passing rates. Students are terrified of failing. Stress abounds and legitimate concerns are entering the discourse, questioning the efficacy and validity of such high stakes testing.

Last week I found myself beyond frustrated to learn that what little time I have left to prepare my students for the behemoth, end-all-be-all end of course state test, was being cut in half with the scheduling of two additional standardized tests. Within the next two months, my students will take a total of three tests, solely in the subject of English.

I’m usually up for a challenge, yet  I freaked out. I tried to take the scheduling of the second benchmark test in stride. That third test though, that one gutted me. The moment I read the email informing me that another test was being scheduled in March, anger flooded through my veins. I fired off the most ridiculous, zillion lined text message to my boyfriend that crazily ended with “I’m being set up to fail and I just touched my head and my hair is falling out.” I know the man truly loves me, because he didn’t toss his phone and run in the other direction. His gentle and supportive response stopped my meltdown in its tracks, not just because it was sweet, but because he reminded me of who I am.

I am a woman who prays, a woman who believes that there is no task too great for my God. So why was I behaving like a hopeless hypocrite? I pray for my students’ personal lives, but I have failed to steadfastly pray for their academic lives. It seems like such an obvious thing for a Christian teacher, and yet I had utterly ignored this significant part of my life in prayer. I am not enough to overcome the many obstacles in the public education system, but I will show up and give my students 100% of myself every day, and I will trust God to fill in the gaps as only he can.

photo 11I will pray that my students are mentally present every day, that they can absorb, apply and retain information, that they will discover satisfaction in achievement. I will pray that at least 60% of my students will pass the English 1 and English 2 EOC tests at the end of March. I would ask that if you pray, please join me in praying for my students.

Most importantly, I will pray that my students know that a test does not define who they are or what they will accomplish in the future. In April, we will celebrate, well before we ever receive the results of who passed and who did not. We will celebrate putting forth our best efforts and believing in ourselves, a lesson I hope they will apply throughout their lives.

Image result for i believe in pink audrey hepburn quote poster

 

 

 

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Baked Eggplant with Swiss Chard

Sliced EggplantFear is a funny thing. It can take over our lives and turn us into the worst versions of ourselves. It may cause us to become bystanders, when we should be defenders. It may cause us to be followers, when we should be unpopular leaders. It may cause us to lash out, when we should dig deeper for compassion. Fear is a monster, and one that we all wrestle with.

There is much to fear now, with terrorism destroying lives around the world. It too often feels as if terrorism itself is knocking on our doorstep. Its violence is no longer the “isolated” problem of a few countries that we may or may not have heard of. It is everywhere.

Chopped Swiss ChardThis weekend my friends and our families had the opportunity to attend a prayer service at a church where refugees from Burundi, Sudan and the Congo gather for worship. Their former lives razed by terrorists, America has granted them asylum. They worshipped through beautiful songs and dance, and through prayers of thankfulness for compassion and provision of their needs. They thanked us for praying with them, yet it was us who were blessed by them. My heart is forever touched by the faith and hope they possess, despite having their lives and families brutally destroyed. In the face of hate, they choose love.

Swiss Chard Beans Tomato SauceBodies of the world’s most vulnerable are washing up on the shores of freedom, but fear incites us to call for border closures. Fear begs us to reject those who are escaping rape, kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, torture, and slaughter. When I feel fear creeping into my soul, I try and imagine myself in their place, my world turned upside down by savage violence, helpless to save my daughter and loved ones from the most brutal of circumstances. I imagine myself clinging to my child, starving and gutted, desperately knocking on doors that could provide relief and basic safety, only to find that no one will answer because they are afraid.

Baked Eggplant Little Foodie SliceWhen we succumb to hate driven fear, when fear of self preservation stifles sympathy, when we harden our hearts towards suffering, fearing it is the only way to protect our families, we lose a little bit of our humanity. We re-write the DNA of the world we will leave behind for our children. To love and hope in spite of fear is a choice. To have compassion in spite of fear is a choice. I pray to raise a daughter within whom fear will bring her to her knees in prayer, because her soul will be Baked Eggplant Fiesta Waregrounded in the conviction that she was created not to fear, but to hope. If fear wins our hearts and our homes, then terrorism wins, despite how fiercely we tighten our borders, despite how many weak, beaten, and weary we turn away.

I pray that God’s word will be imprinted on my little one’s heart, so that when the time comes for her to understand the suffering of others, either from afar or in her own community, she will respond with compassion. I pray that as her mother, I will be an example of reaching out my hand to others in love, despite my own fears.

Baked Eggplant with Swiss ChardMy heart was heavy as I prepared dinner. We were trying a new baked eggplant recipe with swiss chard and white beans. Perhaps because I was distracted while I was cooking, talking with my little foodie about our new friends from Africa, and catching up with family over the phone, I forgot to add most of the tomato sauce and used twice as much mozzarella as it called for. It didn’t matter though, because we had full bellies, a safe home, and our family nearby. We have blessings beyond measure, and I pray that we may be blessings to others.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Ricotta Lasagna

pumpkin pureeLast night I sat on my kitchen floor and cried. My dog stared at me with her soulful eyes, while my daughter pranced around me in her pajamas and tiara, her plastic heels clickety clacking against the tile. Every now and then she stopped to stroke my cheek with her little hand, asking me what we were going to have for lunch tomorrow.

I was broken. Spent and exhausted, I was throwing in the towel there on my kitchen floor. In the span of only a few hours, I had failed in every way and there was nothing left to do but sit and cry. So I did.

pumpkin lasagnaBrokenness is discovering that your child, who has never colored anywhere other than on paper or her own body, has taken a sharpie and decorated her bathroom cabinets with treble clefs and quarter notes. Well done piano lessons.

Brokenness is finding your child, who has been potty trained for two years, peeing in front of the refrigerator, because she’s angry you told her no and is testing her power.

treble clefs and quarter notesBrokenness is stepping on a wet carpet that your potty trained dog has decided to inexplicably wet. Just because.

Brokenness is hearing yourself losing control, raising your voice to your child, exposing your emotional upheaval, rather than focusing on consequences and life lessons.

 

BondingBrokenness is locking the bathroom door while you pray for forgiveness, while you pray for calm.

Brokenness is taking your daughter by the hand and telling her how you love her more than the earth and the moon and the stars, before explaining to her why you are disappointed. It’s putting the carpet in the wash, teaching your child responsibility by assigning her chores, and the giggles that mend both your hearts as you fold clothes, cook dinner, and stare in bewilderment at the bathroom cabinet together.

Brokenness is planning and prepping meals for the week, because you’re too busy to run back to the store once Monday hits, and the excitement of trying a new recipe that you hope your little foodie will love, one that will nourish her body, mind and soul.

Brokenness is your dog eating a pan of freshly cooked, pumpkin ricotta lasagna as it cools, while you are hanging the carpet out to dry.

pumpkin ricottaIn brokenness, we find loving words from our mothers, encouragement from friends without judgment, and heroes knocking on our door with frozen lasagnas and roses. We find gentleness from repentant dogs, and sweet kindness from a child learning about empathy. In our brokenness, God meets us with love and grace, pulls us up from the kitchen floor, and reminds us that we have all we will ever need in Him.

pumpkin ricotta lasagnaIt was the day to end all days, but finally it was quiet. I laid my tired body down to read, before drifting off into what I prayed would be a deep, healing sleep. That’s when our dog started ferociously barking at the front door on and off for a span of four hours. We live in a safe neighborhood, one where people look out for each other and you don’t worry about walking around after dark. I peered out the front door and saw nothing. Frustration set in full force and I begged God to quiet her down so I could reclaim some sanity.

my dog ate my lasagnaBrokenness is waking up in the morning and checking your email, only to read a message from your HOA warning residents that the previous night, during the time period that your dog was going absolutely insane, there were a group of people canvassing the neighborhood, banging on doors and trying to kick them down. I hit my knees in humility.

cashews

 

I think I’m going to make another pumpkin ricotta lasagna for my dog.