Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.

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As hard as it should ever be

A few nights ago the Gigglemonster was having a rough time with the whole sleeping-when-the-lights-are-off thing. I can’t really blame him. He was dealing with a perfect storm of sleep-impairing factors:

  • first day of Kindergarten anxiety
  • nightmares
  • growing pains (I remember them from the teen years – they made me cry)
  • the knowledge that our house was missing that necessary element: Daddy (gone on a business trip)

Given all that, my little not-quite-six year old just couldn’t seem to settle, or stay asleep once he did. I was called into his room again and again, a call made difficult by Mommy’s own sleep-impairing reality of a looming deadline on a major grant application. Needless to say, it was a hard night for both of us.

At around 2:00am, when I had finally shut down my computer and dragged myself to bed only to be wakened by child cries, we were curled together on his bed as I tried to soothe him. He was beyond exhausted, but that made it all the harder to calm down and fall back to sleep. His legs hurt, and he was overwrought, and he just couldn’t take it anymore.

With his sweet little faced scrunched up against the ALL of it, he half-cried his hopeless protest.

“I’m just having a really HARD night, Mommy.”

As I cuddled him closer and told him I understood, I knew that this was true.

I also knew that there were so many little ones that night whose “hard” was unimaginably worse than the “hard” my little boy was fighting. The image of little Aylan Kurdi, and the knowledge of all the millions fleeing the terror that ultimately took his life, has been draining my soul all week. Lying on a soft bed, in a safe house, with all our physical needs met and no fear that they will ever be threatened, I was rocked by the recognition that even here “hard” can be too much. Hard can overwhelm, and leave a loving mother feeling helpless to give my child what he needs and desperately asks me for.

What must it be for a mother to not be able to even give her child safety? What must it be to not even have a bed in which to cuddle your terrified son? 

Reflecting on these contrast I felt grateful for all that we have, but more I was devastated for those who don’t have safety. Comparisons like this can too easily become a sanctimonious sermon about looking at what one has instead of what one lacks, but that take feels very selfish to me. Feeling grateful for what I have is wholly and utterly inadequate when facing the refugee crisis. The comparison that struck me while I comforted my son wasn’t about me. It was about all those who can’t comfort their children because the “hard” they are dealing with is just too hard.

For a five year old, missing his Daddy, and dealing with the first day of school, and waking up with nightmares and growing pains… all that is genuinely hard. And it’s as hard as it should ever be for little boys and girls. As hard as it should ever be. 

If you haven’t done so yet, please join me in doing what you can to help. Links for a few reputable organizations providing direct aid to the crisis are below. It’s can’t fix everything, but it will help parents who don’t have what they need to comfort there children tonight.

World Relief Disaster Response

Lutheran World Relief 

World Vision Syria Crisis Appeal

Ox Fam is also working to generate support for refugee resettlement. You can join that effort here

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Suicide Prevention Reflection

I don’t know if it is a sign of my healing, or of my current stress level, that World Suicide Prevention Day passed almost without a second thought today (or – technically – yesterday). Given the way that my father’s suicide when I was not quite grown has shaped my life, that relative inconsequence certainly means something.

Since I am still up, however, I don’t want to let the day pass without any notice, and so I am re-posting the piece I wrote shortly after the world lost the tortured light that was Robin Williams.

Suicide is complicated. It is wonderful to have a day of awareness, but Facebook memes and one-day attention efforts are not enough. When we talk about suicide, we need to really talk.

So this is my contribution to the conversation:

Absolutes and Vulnerability

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Sky Knowing

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The sky was painted for my soul tonight.

The sweeping strokes of color draw me up

away from gravity of daily life,

and draw from me a sigh too deep for words,

too real to be confined to lines of frozen verse.

But I must try,

must let my spirit’s lover know that I have read his message

writ across this little part of heaven –

the only part that I can see, for now.

It’s hard to wait,

with leaden feet that trap me here upon this broken earth

It’s hard to see only a little piece of heaven

when I’m longing for that sweet fulfillment when I’ll see it all

and know that all is well

not just for me, but truly ALL.

But until then,

I have this sky

And in this sky,

In this soft, momentary gift of light

I know the soul of God.

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They tell me I’m supposed to find a balance:

between work and play

between rest and responsibility

between activity and contemplation

between care for others and restorative care of self.


sometimes all this balancing just feels like one more task I must perfect.

Or else,

all the delicately balanced weights will all come crashing down.

But perhaps

the goal is not the static stillness of a balanced scale.

Perhaps the object I must balance on is actually a swing,

and my task is to kick out my legs,

and enjoy the ride.

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Recently life has been more than a bit frantic. Working, parenting, housekeeping, wifeing… it has all been pilling up and pulling me round until I am wondering whether dizziness is just my perpetual reality.

And so, as an attempted remedy, I spent some time this morning in grounding prayer. Prayer in the  sense not of speaking, but of listening. Of sitting in silence for the still small voice to speak to me.

And today, that voice spoke to my soul in lines of poetry.



Like a child’s spinning top

I launch myself at frantic speed

seeking the velocity

to let me balance on a tiny point of contact.



in my enthusiasm,

or anxiety,

I push too hard.

No elegant display of spinning speed,

no ballerina poised on point am I.

I am the wobbling, panicked top about to 




in my panic I reach out,

reach down,

my hand and heart both grasping for the solid ground,

for grounding, 

for a source of steadiness outside myself. 



in that contact 

I remember:

that I am spinning on a world that spins as well,

and the Master Spinner does not need my feeble speed

To make the world go round.

I can rest here,

and know

I’m spinning still in glorious mystery.



Moving at Shutter Speed

This past weekend my little family got together with an old friend and her camera.

The friend is Sabrina Norrie, and the camera is a new off shoot of the website she began as part of her little family’s adventure of living at their own pace – a pace that lets them really experience the world they are moving through.

I scheduled this “family photoshoot” on a bit of a whim… because it looked fun, and I love pictures, and because it was a chance to get some great post-able snaps of my kids while also getting to see Sabrina for the first time in close to a year. That time lapse in our friendship a reflection of the pace at which my family generally moves – a rushing momentum so full of activity that it often precludes moments to just stop and experience… or connect.

While not much thought went into the decision to meet Sabrina at the park that afternoon, some thinking has come out of it – in addition to some really beautiful photos. [editorial note – this endorsement is completely unsolicited, but if you live in the New Jersey area, I highly recommend Family + Footprints!].

For an hour, the task at hand was to slow down long enough for the camera to capture our connections. There is real beauty in that slowness – a beauty that is capture in the pictures, but more in the recognition is has brought to my soul.

Moving at Shutter Speed


The hurry of preparation layers on the daily pace of rush:

fights over clothes, and brushing teeth

attempts to corral childhood attention

to tune young minds and hands to tasks at hand

and set their expectations for the coming hour.

This extra step is meant to smooth over the wrinkles of a disconnected life,

to make it somehow shimmer with ephemeral beauty,

just like the colors that I layer on my face – a camera-ready mask.

Then we arrive

The sunset light is playing in the gently curving trees

a game that breaks the ice of shyness for my tinies

they understand these rules

without my adult explanations.

We’re here to play.

And so we are, although my instinct still is to direct:

“perhaps the posed shots first…

or we will never pull them back.”

So sweet young hearts comply with Mommy’s worry.


they bring the play along as well

and sing a bright duet of giggles mixed with camera clicks.

And as bright smiles and warm sunshine melt my cold perfectionists’ mask

I laugh as well.

The wrinkles might show through,

but so does Joy,

the joy that comes with slowing down enough to



in this moment

and let the laughter linger on my lips

for long enough

to let the camera

and my soul

join with my family’s song

played in the meter of

slow-motion shutter speed.

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Monet Musing

I have seen more than a little beautiful art in the last two days, and I wouldn’t like to pick a favorite, but there has been a “most inspirational.” Or rather, there have been 8 canvases in 2 rooms that win that particular prize. The Orangerie Museum devotes the entire top floor to two light-filled oval rooms built specifically to display the most famous of Monet’s massive Water Lilies. I spent the better part of an hour in this magical space yesterday, and the product of this time is the two poems I share here:

Room 1: The Water Under The Lilies

Water flows through sun and shadow – it is unaware? 

And when sunset lights a fire, can it see the glare? 

Can it feel the floating lilies play upon it face? 

Is it proud to know it’s beauty? conscious of its grace? 

If I floated with that water, could I rest at ease?

Would I be content to wander with no thought to please? 

I think not, and yet I wonder, whose the better part? 

For, with consciousness and striving comes an awe-struck heart. 

Room 2: Melancholy friend

In this room

There’s a reflection of my sometime mood – 

the darkness and the languor,

trailing branches dipping down to taste the water’s tears. 

There’s something of twilight and of mist

that does not look for dawn to rush in quickly

before the night has had it’s time 

to whisper necessary secrets with the voice of darkened waters. 

These waters know a subtle kind of light – 

a kind that mixes into murky water

ill-content to merely dance upon the waves

it sinks beneath – absorbs into the depths.

And in that secret, silent, submerged world

creates a healing, understanding beauty

that sits quietly with me

In this room. 


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