The Dark of Thursday


I trudged upstairs after putting my children to bed to write because I know what this night means and somehow I needed to address it.  This morning on the way to work I cried, not for Jesus but for my own weaknesses and insecurities, because at times I feel so fallible and small.

I had such a long day in heels, crafting language that passed muster under federal regulations and dictating to my paralegal the content of an agenda for a meeting in an hour. I ran around like a hamster on a wheel preparing and meeting and writing and drafting. I nibbled on salad and tapped messages into my bright shiny phone and answered emails as fast as they fired.

I sighed as my children refused to eat the dinner I set before them. And tonight when my daughter failed to listen when I told her to get out of the tub I yelled, my sharp knife-words cut as I scolded her to be respectful and pay attention.  Her heart was hurt and she sulked away.  But it felt good to yell, to demand respect. To show that I have some authority in this home.

I am also so painfully aware of how I started many of the previous sentences with I.  Because that’s the world we live in, self-focused and ego-driven.

Yet it’s the night before the dawn. When Jesus begged his closest friends to stay awake while he prayed a prayer so earnest blood likely drained from his tired eyes. The type of tired that is beyond exhausted, where you can barely move and yet you can’t stop praying because life is ripped out from underneath you and it’s all so damn hard. The thought of a slow agonizing death is simply too much for one to bear.

And yet these friends of Jesus, they walked so far. It was dark and it was late and it was Passover. The glasses of wine made them all tired. “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” he said to Peter as he sat sleeping – probably slumped over – because what-are-ya-gonna-do with all that wine. I can see it, Jesus shaking his head, like “I try to teach you fellas and every time I turn around you’re all missing it.” I’m sure my pastor feels that way most of the time with his flock, just a bunch of rich middle-class slackers.

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus said to Peter. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said this to the man who swore to never leave, or abandon, or betray.

But he did, three times before the dawn.

I mean to be kind and patient. I really honestly do. I want to get down on the level of my children’s eyes and talk peacefully about respect and consequences. I have chore charts that go unattended and morning routines that are half-followed. But what the hell with this guy who thinks he owns the road in rush hour and why is the dog barking again when I already fed him and DON’T THE KIDS SEE HOW HARD I’M WORKING AND IT IS ALL FOR THEM.

The spirit, it’s all charged up. On Sundays I hold palm branches and sing hymns and fist-bump online about pretty things. On facebook I put my best family pictures forward. On Easter I shall wear blue and sing Messiah. But oh, the flesh. It is ripped and torn by Thursday, when things grow dark and our pasts tickle our hearts and we are filled with passive aggressive rage. So we yell and sulk and it feels pretty damn good. For now we’ll just close our eyes for a bit and rest.

Tonight after I thought the kids were asleep, I heard my daughter’s voice. Small and beautiful, it called my name like a song as she lay there under her purple coverlet. The one with flowers and little lacy stripes. She couldn’t sleep, and I curled up next to her and encircled my legs in hers. I put my face next to her damp hair that I had braided into two delicate braids. And I cried, my tears so close to the body that came from me, out of me, a part of me. I said I was so sorry that I yelled, that I am so far from perfect. Sometimes we don’t act the way we tell others to act. And I asked her forgiveness. “No one is perfect,” she said in that elegant little eight-year-old way.

I am filled with such sorrow, Jesus, for falling asleep. How can you ever possibly forgive me when I’m so selfish and unworthy? For thinking you can wait until tomorrow, because of the wine and the meal and the business of life that sort-of interferes?

So I trudge upstairs, even though it’s been a long day and I yelled at my daughter in the bathtub and my childrens’ plates of ham and potatoes are half-eaten on the table. But I needed to document this succession of days filled with grief when the veil was torn. When heaven wept. When our Lord was tortured, and bled, and cried out to a father who surely hadn’t forsaken him.

Easter is coming. I know this because I’ve read the book jacket. Because my daughter has already forgiven me for the yelling. Because if my love for her is a tiny indication of the love our Father feels, I am protected beyond measure.   But this is a hard night.  It is a dark Thursday. A night of our own failures. A night when we betray even the one who loves us, because it’s human nature.  Because no one is perfect.  Because we need Christ more than we need the virtues of this world.

Stay awake, friends. As hard as you can, pry your eyes open wide. The Easter son will soon rise. 


(three w’s)

Farewell, Frog


The other morning, upon running late, shooing children out the door, and wearing a pencil skirt with leopard-print pumps of all things, my son makes a discovery.  A tiny little frog had hopped into the garage – fresh from the rain puddles I suppose, and had found himself juxtaposed between a corner and a large 4-year-old boy with beautiful eyes and a fascination for reptiles. He didn’t have a chance, really.

“Can we take him to school?” my son asked.  He was jumping and his eyes were smiling.  But we didn’t have time.  I was in heels.  There has been zero consumption of caffeine.  We have exactly eighteen seconds to get in the car and peel out of the driveway or both kids would be late.  “Please, mom? Can we can we can we?” I looked in his little eyes, those eyelashes batting up and down.

Damnit with the eyelashes.

So back in the house we go, the superman Tupperware shaped for sandwiches being brutally sacrificed for the love of frogs, so I stab air holes in the lid and hobble back out in my heels and ridiculously thin skirt and try to catch the slippery thing.  Finally with the help of a piece of paper and my transferring-frogs-into-tupperware-skillz that I learned in parenting school, I captured him, to the delight of my screeching son, who was happier than I saw him last Christmas morning.  Which means this Christmas I’m just going to fill the house with frogs.  Thanks a lot, gears-gears-gears. You were a waste of $60.

Off to school we go, after rounds of Taylor Swift for my daughter and having to endure the interior light so she can read her book on dogs who talk and save the earth, and I somehow get the children dropped off at their respective places with statements of love and happiness, through the Starbucks line, and I’m happily in rush-hour traffic toward my office.  Fast forward eight lovely hours, whereby I skipped lunch to review contracts and I’m back in my car, which is hot enough to roast marshmallows because it’s Texas and it never freaking gets cold despite it being October. And then I see it.  Right there next to his seat.

Death.  It permeates the Lexus.

The poor thing suffocated.  It had no hope.  We even put a leaf in the little container for it to eat, although let’s be honest small baby-like frogs don’t munch on leaves like potato chips, but to my son every living thing eats leaves so let’s not ruin the whole story over semantics.  I am forced to make a pit stop in suburbia one block away from my son’s preschool and pull over, opening the lid to throw the dead body out on the pavement below.  I can’t exactly explain to him that we simply “forgot the frog” or “it suffocated in the heat, dying a slow miserable death whilst plastered to a converse blue image of a superhero he will never become,” now can I.

I had to bang the Tupperware against my car for him to fall out because his little water-starved body was stuck to the side. I know, I know. It’s horrific.  I crossed myself although I’m not Catholic and said a little prayer as it lay there lifeless on the pavement below, soon to be run over by the wheels of my own car most likely, but what exactly do you do in this situation? Stupid Texas heat. If we lived in Chicago the sweet little frog might be fat and happy munching on that leaf all afternoon.

I hid the Tupperware in the front seat so my kid wouldn’t ask questions.  I said we could have mac-and-cheese for dinner.  I tried all my tactics to keep him upbeat and not be suspicious.  Until he saw it.  The Tupperware lid peering from underneath my blazer.  Oh, friends.  Let the tears roll.

I told him I let it out by his school, so he could frolic and play with his friends since we forgot to take him in, which at first blush may seem a wee bit untruthful but his froggy friends could so totally be frog zombies. He was mostly angry I didn’t let him out at home, so he could find him (until I offered oreos and then would forget), his long-lost friend (that he forgot) and wanted so badly to save (that he just met this morning it’s not like you guys are BFFs, geez.  Plus he’s a frog).

Needless to say it was a big ordeal, only to be healed by a television show and love from his dear mother (who committed frogslaughter and dumped the body).   The most important thing about all this is that I managed to kneel down in a pencil skirt.  If you see any frog remains in front of a brick house I don’t know what you are talking about.

You guys can judge all day, but just wait until this happens to you.  Let’s hope it’s just a beetle, who “overdid it on the leaf eating.”  They are less frightening when dead. Not that I know anything about that.

Let’s all have oreos. K?



Free as a bird

Last week, my daughter found a dove in the yard.  It had fallen out of its nest and sat there in the grass, looking confused and bewildered.  Of course it’s hard to read the emotions of birds.  It might have been trying to kill itself, inching and pushing and finally managing to throw his distorted body from the tree.  He might have been downright furious at the failed attempt.

Something was clearly wrong with the poor thing.  It was too large to be a baby.  Part of his feathers were grey and thick but his front half was a damp mass of skin and fuzz.  He could hardly open his little beak and looked a little bloated.  I placed him in a box lined with cloth and began to give him drops of warm water with a medicine dispenser.  I set the box in a high place and just hoped he lived. I just couldn’t see him lying there all night in the grass, devoured by dogs or hawks or other preying things.  Leave the guy alone.  Even birds need a place to rest.

I read online that you can mash up egg yolks and wet dog food and feed it to injured birds, so I rushed to the kitchen to make a life-saving paste.  There I was, trying to get the sick little thing to open its beak to take it in.  Once I squeezed too hard and too much came out, his poor eye covered in wet yolky-dog food.  I tried to wash it out but there he sat, wet and dirty, sick and sad.  It was hopeless.

I fretted all night about that bird.  I prayed that it would find a way to live.  That it would fly off and join the other doves, free and glorious and shining with silver radiance. But the next morning it had a fluid pocket jutting out below it’s beak.  I probably choked it to death with a tiny shred of dog food.  Great. My mother-in-law tossed it in the dumpster.  We’ll just tell the kids it flew away, she said. I wish she had at least broken its neck first and put it out of his misery. I hated that neighbors would toss garbage bags on top of him, just another piece of trash like used milk cartons or Frito bags. 

I wish we could all die elegant deaths – not in a movie theatre riddled with stray bullets or driving to Subway in our Subaru to get a ham sandwich.  We should all get to say our piece, kissing the heads of our little ones and quoting Thoreau.  We should all get to make amends and die in our sleep with our best dress on.   It fills me with rage that good people have to go so quickly.  That they are off to the market for strawberries one day and the next they are pinned under a car or lying in a hospital where all the zig-zag lines go flat.  I don’t like to think of living things contorted or bloated or twisted up in bullets. No one should die in the bottom of a dumpster.

But in the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter how we exit.  It’s a temporary holding place, this life, where we muddle through and say our prayers and eat our broccoli.  Someday, if I die a gruesome horrible death, falling out of my nest and landing in unfamiliar territory, no one needs to save me.  No one needs to worry about feeding me mashed up food or dropping water in my parched throat. For I’m off to fly – my elegant wings spread before me, soaring through the air and breathing in the fresh smell of freedom.  Like a bird.  Back home.


Our children are spoiled rotten.  Not spoiled in the sense that they have a pony and get to eat graham crackers every morning for breakfast and win arguments by failing around their arms and screaming.  They’re spoiled because they get to live in a home with their own bedroom, packed with soft blankets and stuffed animals and books. They never have to feel hunger pains shooting from their stomachs, drink sugar water for sustenance, or live in bombed-out basements and see their father bleeding to death on pile of rubble.  My daughter skips around in peaceful oblivion, thinking of ballet and scavenger hunts and Miss Piggle Wiggle’s magic cures.  My son is learning his A-B-C’s and likes to eat peanut butter bars. How sheltered they are.

When I read about what’s happening in Syria, how families are torn apart and blown up for crossing the street or hunting for a piece of bread, it makes my heart ache.  It seems so far-off and foreign, like a movie that’s covered in mist and gunfire and the music of symphonies.  Like I can somehow shut the pages of the New York Times and it will all go fading off into the distance, credits slowly rolling.

But there’s nothing beautiful in this tragedy.  Some of those children will likely survive, which seems the worst of it.  I can only hope their mind locks down the memories, although they will surface someday in dreams, etched like a third-degree burn onto their heart.  The welling up of tears will be gone and only a hollowed-out black hole will remain, their soul empty and waiting to die.

The last few weeks, I’ve been inordinately stressed about my daughter’s educational experience, of all the silly things.  I’ve been wringing my hands about how little fun she’s having these days, learning math and handwriting and all those repetitive sound tests.  I call my mother and my good friends and say things like “Shouldn’t Kindergarten be more fun?” and “those classrooms need more color, I tell you what.”

I complain about how the discipline and structure of private school seems to tug at my daughter’s natural buoyancy, and I don’t want anyone to break her creative and independent spirit.  She might not always follow the rules and complain about having to walk too far.  She might gripe about picking up her toys or having to eat her broccoli, but isn’t that just what children do?  Let’s allow them to be young and have fun.  Why should we make life so hard for them?   Wimps, I tell you.  Spoiled rotten wimps.

Jesus, the great teacher, said that “behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace.  In the world, you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33.

My children are spoiled because we spoil them.  We worry about trivial things and place great emphasis on what matters very little.  We allow them to complain and whine and worry about making their lives comfortable and entertaining.  As if their lives aren’t comfortable enough.  Perhaps we should be worrying less about how fun their lives are and about how better to equip them for their own spiritual battles to come.

My thoughts drift back to the Syrians, cramped in basements and locked away from the sun or their grandmothers or a decent day’s food.  I weep for you, sweet children.  I tear my clothes and fall to my knees in angst for your innocence.

This world is a fallen, scornful place.  That is true. Your world is ugly and empty and smoldering.  In a sense we live in that same world, albeit on the opposite side of the globe, and the ugliness not so obvious.  We, too, are busy scattering like cockroaches into our own basements, except we don’t have the luxury of having nothing left to rely on.  We have BFFs and soft down comforters and bottles of wine and cheerful husbands to console us. We don’t see the reality of war.

Jesus taught us of peace.  Of taking comfort in things unseen.  Of complete surrender.  Despite the smoke and blood pouring down city streets, He has overcome this world.  My dear children, I hope you will someday feel this truth.  It makes all the difference.

no regrets

I’ve been thinking of the concept of fairness.   About how we human beings have a certain timeline in our heads about what is right and just.

You are born.  You struggle and climb and claw your way out of, well, something.  You find the perfect mate with good teeth.  You have children, who you set up little college accounts for.   They grow up going to church and wearing plaid jumpers.  They study and play monopoly.  You clasp your hands over your mouth when they make the deans list. Someday, they take you out to brunch and thank you for all your hard work over a chai tea latte and scones.  They get married, all white and blushing and beautiful. Then, you’ll start babysitting chubby little grandchildren while your offspring jet off to their medical practices or CPA offices.  Satisfied, you and the better half drive off into the sunset on an RV retirement adventure.  You slowly grow old and can’t remember to turn off the toaster. Finally, you die.  Everyone grieves and brings casseroles.  It’s cool. You lived a full life.  Death happens.

This, my friends, is fairness.  It’s the natural order of things. Anything less is not open to discussion.  And yet despite this view of life, unfair things happen all the time.  A young mother dies of cancer leaving two small children confused and broken.  Her husband prayed.  Her mother prayed.  But survival was not to be.  She was just fine one day, and then she wasn’t.  What about the plan?  She was only 32 years old.  What about the brunch and the scones and the chubby grandchildren?  What if your spouse died and left only a pile of dirty laundry behind? There is no love letter or made-for-television novel or some grand exit.  He was just there, and then he wasn’t.  Where is God? Why did this happen?  How will the children make it? Your fairness timetable is all screwed up.

So in order to protect ourselves, and not end up heavily medicated, we ignore reality.  We draw a circle around us and stay in close.   Like if we are home on a Saturday afternoon doing laundry, ill fate will not befall us.  Like we can somehow escape death.  After all, we aren’t those people.  We aren’t that family.  The end will come to us at a more appropriate time.  Like when our children are all grown or our minds start to fade.  We’ll bite the dust watching reruns in housedresses and slippers, screaming into the phone while our kids tell us to turn up our hearing aids.

“The race is not to the swift. . .” the Bible says, “nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.”  Ecclesiastes 9:11.  This explains why the Kardashian sisters are walking around in nine-hundred-dollar shoes while children are starving in Africa.  Or why Hugh Hefner is still bouncing around the Playboy mansion with a fake tan.  Because life, my friends, is not at all fair.  It doesn’t follow our rules. “For man does not know his time.  Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.”  Ecclesiastes 9:12.

I hate it when people say “it was his time” or “it was all God’s plan” when someone dies.  Really? A seven-year-old chose to die? God planned for a young mother to come down with cancer, leaving two kids behind?  I hope that’s not the case.  I think we just get caught in snares, and can’t weave our way out.

So you wake up tomorrow.  Victory! It’s true that you still must scrub toilets and go to work and suffer from headaches.  You still get annoyed when your kids scream, and sometimes you pour cereal only to realize you are out of milk.  Those stupid allergies make you crazy and you feel overwhelmed at work.  You go out to eat and get fat and don’t have any energy and are the only one who unloads the dishwasher.

Stop complaining.

Re-evaluate your life to see what really matters.  Be thankful you have children to raise and friends to talk to.  Get your head out of the television and start seeing what’s around you. You have the unique perspective that others don’t.  You actually have some element of control over your decisions and the words you speak and what do you with the hours in your day. This weekend, I started to watch an online movie preview of some stupid movie I knew I wouldn’t like.  I thought to myself – that’s three minutes of time on this earth wasted.

Think of your days as numbered, and your hours having value. You just might start to change some habits.  And then, you’ll really start living with no regrets.