How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex Day #3

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

#3 Name the part and who can be A PART!

Yesterday, we talked about using the correct anatomical terms when teaching our kids about their body parts. In addition, it is important to tell your kids who has permission to touch their body and who does not. 93% of juvenile sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know (RAINN).

Be specific here, vague does no one any good. For example, you are helping little Susie (2-4 years old, for us) bathe and you’re going over body parts, “Susie, I want you to know that the only people that get to touch your vagina, breasts, and bottom are me, daddy and Dr. Hall. But Dr. Hall only gets to touch you if we are in his office AND if mama and daddy are with you AND you are comfortable with him touching you. Your WHOLE body is very special. But these places on your body are really extraordinary and only really safe people, who have permission, get to help you with these body parts and touch these body parts.”

Obviously, everyone’s “safe” list will vary according to your specific family and friends. But make sure you give specific names. Recognize I don’t label all family, friends, teachers, coaches, and medical professionals as “safe.” I give the name of the family doctor and the location where it’s appropriate for this touching to take place and the caveat that either Mark or I are present.

In addition to instructing them about who can touch THEIR body, it’s important to cover that they are not allowed to touch anyone else’s special body parts. You can distinguish appropriate touches (hugs, holding hands, high-fives, pat on the back) from inappropriate touches.

The thinking is two-fold here. At some point, they will become curious about other people’s bodies. It’s good to establish now we aren’t going to explore other people’s bodies. Toddlers do this all the time. And it’s not even connected to their sexuality it’s just development. But even as young as 2, 3, and 4 we can speak to this situation and build an understanding in their brains about privacy and appropriate behavior.

The second reason, oftentimes child predators make children touch the abuser’s body. Children will often know THEY aren’t to be touched, but when a predator begins to take a child’s hand and force them to touch the abuser’s body, kids can get confused and paralyzed. Teach them not to touch other people’s private parts, and that no one should ever force them to touch their private parts or someone else’s private parts.

One great way to reinforce this is to role-play. “Can Cookie Monster touch your bottom?” The child laughs in hysteria, “NO!” “Can Cinderella touch your penis?” Again, hysterical laughter… “NO!” “Can Coach Billy touch your breasts?” “Can Pastor Billy touch your vagina?” “Can Sunday School teacher Susie touch your bottom?” “Can teacher Lily touch your penis?” And so on and so forth.

Remember to tread lightly, be gentle in your approach, be factual NOT emotional.

I’m already proud of you guys! We can do hard things for our kids!

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex Day #2

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

#2 Talk early and talk often!

As parents, if we abdicate our role and responsibility and abandon our children by not talking to them about sex, we will leave them wounded and vulnerable in more ways than we can possibly imagine.

Read that again.

Let us dispel the idea that talking to our kids about sex is a one time conversation. Mmmmkk? I mean, you don’t have to be a parent long to realize telling your child anything once is only slightly better than never having said it. Am I right? The goal is to start talking to your kids about sex at a very young age and never stop talking to them about sex.

One of the very first conversations we have with our kiddos (18 months-3 years) starts as soon as we are teaching them body parts, “Head, shoulders, penis, toes….”

Here is why…

First, if from the earliest of ages we are making up names for our kids’ body parts we are subtly communicating shame. We are subtly communicating a shrinking away from. If we, grown adults, cannot use the anatomically correct words in front of our kids, then who can? When we make up code words we are communicating that there is something inherently wrong with the real words. Even from the youngest of ages, we begin to write our children’s sexual stories with deception, secrets, code words, shadows, and mystery. When we do not use real words we are communicating that these body parts must be spoken about in a vague way. In all actuality, what we want to be communicating to our kids about their body parts is this is the most natural, beautiful, and God-given thing EVER. If we unashamedly point out to our children that God made the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, the birds, the ocean, and the mountains, then why do we hesitate to celebrate that God also made vaginas and penises? When it doesn’t feel natural and normal to use the real anatomical words with your children, be aware that might be some of your own sexual brokenness that you are bringing to the table. Remember, you are the tone-setter! “Those are your eyes,” should be as natural as, “that is your vagina.”

I can already hear squirming, “BUT SARA, I don’t want my kid walking around saying, ‘breasts’ in public places. I DO understand. Here’s the beauty, as your kids grow and develop (probably by school-age) you can begin to help them separate the idea that these are “in-house” words. If a child has always heard you use the correct name for their body parts, and now it’s time to venture out into the world, you can gently say when the opportunity arises, “Hey baby, ‘penis’ is a word we use in our house because our house is safe. When we are in public or you are at school, how about we use another word?” Inevitably, each of my kids has asked, “why?” They genuinely did not understand what was wrong with the word. Enter praise hands. Then we could say, “There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with the word, there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with your body parts, but what you’re going to learn is outside of this house people don’t like using those words and it makes them uncomfortable.”

Do you see? This leads to beautiful, truth-telling opportunities. I’ve established my home as safe, I’ve re-affirmed there is nothing wrong with those words and I’ve begun to teach my child that things are different in the great big world beyond these walls.

Second, and of high value, the reason we have taught our kids the correct names for their body parts is for their protection. In a court of law, in a police report, all mystery and room for interpretation are removed if my child can say, “that person touched my breasts.” Instead of, “that person touched my Bee-Bees.” Is this horrible-awful that we have to even consider the reality that someone might inappropriately touch our children? Yes! But y’all, this is our world. 1 out of 3 children is sexually abused or molested by the age of 18. 1 out of 3.

Believing that our children are gifts from God means believing that their bodies, every single part, is a gift from God and should be spoken of as such. If we believe their bodies are amazing and knit together by our awesome Creator, then let’s communicate that by teaching them the truth about their bodies. Let’s help them learn to be comfortable and safe in their own skin. Use the right names, people. You can do it!

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex Day #1

How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

This is a question I see a lot of parents wrestling with and paralyzed by. I know it is a question I started asking before I even started having children. By God’s grace, Mark and I wanted to write a powerful, freeing and knowledgeable foundation for our kids when it came to sex. We have listened and watched other wise parents navigate this topic, and we have learned (sometimes stumbled) with our own 4 children.

I hope one helpful thing from this series lands at your feet!

Let’s begin!

#1 Start with you!

Recognize RIGHT NOW you are bringing your own sexual story to the table. Your own shame, your own history, your own guilt, your own lack of knowledge and your own sexual brokenness needs to be tended to before we can tend to the hearts and minds of our children.

How did you learn about sex?
Who told you?
How did they tell you?
What words did they use?
Did you learn about sex by uncovering secret magazines or secret websites?
Were you shown inappropriate materials by an older sibling or friend?
Was sex an off-limits topic in your home?
Was sex seen as dirty?
Was sex cheapened in your home?

Sit with each of those questions.

Before you ever get to help write your child’s story you MUST know and ponder your own.

I would HIGHLY recommend reading, “Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way To Healing” by Jay Stringer

If we want to steer our children to a healing, holistic understanding of sex, we have to start with US!

Why I Quit Writing..

Why I Quit Writing..

“You absolutely cannot quit writing!” she bossed. “It’s your gift,” she demanded.

A smile spread across my face, “I have no intention on giving up on writing!”

The last blog I posted was 5 months ago. That breaks all the blogging rules. If you do not post once a week for six months straight, you cannot even apply to be on most blogging forums. Consistent writing produces consistent traffic, which produces consistent ratings, which they say produces successful bloggers.

This August will be my SEVEN YEAR blogging anniversary. I was 28 when I started blogging. My kids were 6, 4, 3 and 18 months. We were living in King George, Virginia. Mark was working for the DOD via the Navy, and I was homeschooling and keeping all the small people alive and well (Actually, mostly alive. Well, is subjective.)

I started blogging for sanity. I needed one thing, just one thing to call my own. One thing that allowed me to use adult words and tap back into who I was before gold fish, apple juice, diaper changes and Fresh Beat Band became the melody of my day.

In addition to my sanity, this was also the forum where I began to process my mama’s terminal illness,  her eventual death and my grief journey.

When I glance back at my early posts, I see a young woman who functioned primarily in black and whites, legalism and formulas. I had one million opinions and genuinely thought people needed to know them. I had so much fire in my belly and desperately wanted everyone else to feel the same fire at the same level. That sweet young woman makes me tired. I also see a young mom who was crazy about her husband and her kids, all while feeling a little crazy in the head. Somethings never change. 🙂 As the months and years pass, as my stories about my kids shifted from the funny things they did and said, to the heart-wrenching prayers we prayed out of desperation over their little aching souls, I see a young woman grow into a woman. As the months and years pass, the black and white fades more to gray. My legalism begins to melt, because I see myself more clearly. I see my brokenness and utter dependence on Christ alone through grace alone. Time and pain shattered all my formulas, because oh my goodness there is no secret equation for living. A + B never equals C in the kingdom of God, because He wants our hearts not the sum total our human arithmetic.

This white space here on the blog built me. It really did. I’ll never regret the choice to write. Never. My brother once told me, “Writers, write. That’s how I know you’re a real writer!” Those words gave me life.

Right now, in the sweet orbit of my world, my writing is morphing into something different. To begin with, school is getting all my writing power and energy. 10,000 words a week can make even a lover of words hate words. I don’t always get to write about the things that inspire me, but for the most part I do, and I am grateful. Second of all, those tiny babies who first appeared on this blog are no longer babies. They are these wonderfully, independent creatures who deserve to be able to write their own stories without my narrative tainting them. Their friends, teachers, coaches, and peers are all over social media, which is totally fun. But because I adore my kids, respect them and deeply desire to protect the best parts of them, everything I say about them now they get to approve or VETO. We live in a tiny town with big eyes, and I will storm the gates of hell to uphold their integrity. Here’s the ironic thing, my kids are providing the BEST writing material they have ever provided. The stories I could tell you would go viral in 2 seconds, and I say that with all humility. But man, my kids are more hilarious, more witty, more charming, more beautiful, more kind, more bold, more fiery, more humble, more tender, more authentic and raw than I will ever be. GAH! Maybe someday when they are grown they will give me permission to walk back through these glory days and share the chapters that I have only written on my heart. Until then, they are all tucked away and sealed for me to feast on for a lifetime. Third, and maybe most importantly, I’ve decided that I do in fact have something legitimate to say, but I don’t have to say it any more. As a young wife, mother and writer the haters often wrote the, “JUST YOU WAIT” monologue. “Just you wait til marriage gets hard. Just you wait til you have 2 kids, 3 kids a boy kid. Just you wait til they turn 2, 6, 10… Just you wait til you have a TEENAGER (insert all the horror looks–For the record, I adore my teenager and these are best years!!) Just you wait til you don’t like your spouse any more. Just you wait til something really hard happens in your life. Just you wait til someone really criticizes your work.. JUST YOU WAIT……” I’ve waited, lived, persevered and sometimes crawled through the “just you waits”.  And you know what? I’m still fighting and breathing. #BOOM! But standing on this side of a lot of the “just you waits” I have realized, I do in fact have something to say, but I don’t have to say it any more. *Deep sigh of relief.* I have nothing to prove any more. I don’t have to convince anyone of anything. Whether it’s wifehood related, motherhood related, theologically related, politically (OH GAG) related, culturally related, etc…etc.. It’s not my job to persuade. It’s not my job to convince. It’s not my job to save a blooming soul. How arrogant to think I could ever be more persuasive, more compelling, and more savior-esk than the Triune God, Himself. Oh young Sara, you were so dear.

Today more than ever, I believe in the power of words; written words, spoken words, broken words, expletive words, painful words, compassionate words and REAL WORDS. Don’t hear what I am not saying, I think if you are writing, KEEP WRITING. I think if you are preaching, KEEP PREACHING. I think if you are teaching, KEEP TEACHING. I think if you are singing, KEEP SINGING. But for me personally, I don’t have to do those things anymore the way I used to. I get to use adult words all day long in school, and all night long with Mark and the kids as we ping-pong hard, real-life topics around our dinner table. I get to process daily life with individual people in a really intimate setting that is deeply satisfying. I get to breathe and process my own junk in the silent presence of the Almighty God, while He faithfully refines and renews.  What more could I want?

This post is not goodbye. It it just a pause. A halftime of sorts. A mid-life crisis melt-down… (Just kidding) Do not fear, I write a little something everyday in all the other social media venues, because writing is like breathing to me.

This blog space is so dear to me. I found myself on the white spaces here. I found myself in my words; my beat-up, broke-spelling, grammatically-atrocious, words. But oh my stars, I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Thank you for reading. You have no idea what you’ve done for me!


What’s New & What’s Next?

What’s New & What’s Next?

“Mrs. Littlejohn, in 3 minutes or less, can you tell our admissions board why you would like to pursue your Master’s in the Art of Counseling?”

I blinked, took a deep breath and reminded myself of what all my amazing public speaking teachers and professors had taught me, “speak slowly, speak clearly, embrace the silent pause and make eye contact.”

I began, “35 years ago, in the privacy and warmth of my mother’s womb, I believe that God knit me together with a counselor’s heart. Even as a little girl, I remember watching people hurt and suffer, and everything in my body was drawn to be close to their pain. I could never distance myself or convince myself to not feel on behalf of others. My husband often says of me, ‘I’ve never met someone who feels as wide and as deep as you!’ I was raised by two parents who constantly spoke over me, ‘People and relationships are our eternal inheritance. People are ALWAYS more important than things! People always win!’ Not only did they speak this over me, they lived it out in front of me. Early on in my adult life, I realized that we are ALL counselors. Naturally, if anyone is in relationship with another human, we are called to walk, talk and sit with each other in community. Community; real, life-giving, God-honoring, deeply-honest, self-sacrificing–truly knowing and truly being-known– community. Community always births compassionate counseling. I am already a counselor by choice, my heart’s desire is to become a counselor by trade. I feel like this program is a culmination of what God started 35 years ago. Our world (my world, my community) is broken, hurting and desperate. Satan has no new tricks. He has used the same tactics for thousands of years. He convinces people they are the only ones who have ever struggled with their particular thorn/thorns. He convinces them they are the only ones with wrecked stories. He convinces them there is no hope for them, no redemption, no way out. He shames and lures them into a dark pit of isolation and cyclical despair. And in that isolation, he has a front row sit to speak lies and damnation all over the hearts of the vulnerable and hurting.  People need real help, with real words from real people who are wise, knowledgeable and trained. Sunday school answers and bible verse band-aids are inadequate, thoughtless and damaging. My desire as a biblical counselor will be to come along side my counselees, sit with them in the uncomfortable places until I am stained by their pain, and whisper over them, ‘You do not walk alone!’ I would be so humbled if you let me come and be apart of your program! Thank you!”

3 VERY long months later, I sat at a junior high basketball game when the notification finally arrived in my inbox.

Dear Mrs. Littlejohn,

Welcome to the Master’s in the Art of Counseling Program! 

I lunged down the creaky bleachers in my boots and sprinted out into the dark of night. There was one call I HAD to make.

“Hello?!” He said quickly. He too, had been waiting all the days to get the news.

“I GOT IN! I GOT IN! I GOT IN!” I jumped up and down like a fool outside the gym as tears pooled in the corner of my eyes. “Can you believe this?!” “Can you believe how kind and good God has been?!” “Can you believe He made a way! He did this!”

“Congratulations, my love!” Mark smiled through the phone line.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. God has always been faithful to us. After all, He was the one who knit me together with precision. He wrote desires on my heart, and He gave me specific gifts to use to illumine His face to others. We’ve been waiting for the puzzle to come together. At times, we tried to force the puzzle pieces to no avail. As a mama in the trenches, with babies pulling on me 24/7,  there were days I felt like a caged lion. But He met us there, He reminded us to BE ALL THERE. He told us over and over, “Write your kid’s story first! This is the story for right now.” And then the right now, became right.

All this to say, I’m going back to school (I’ve actually been in school since August :)) And we are thrilled, terrified and out of our brains pumped!

This sweet blog will be sorely neglected in the up coming months, as all my brain power pushes out papers for school. But oh friends, it will be so worth it!

Many of you have written asking where I have been, and that makes my heart so happy, you are so kind to me! So, I felt it was only fair to catch you up! While I will not be posting much over here on the blog, I post almost daily on all my other social media outlets. Typically it is just a short snipet of our lives, but it keeps me connected and writing. Feel free to link up with me over there!

As always, thank you for reading!

Here’s to the next journey!





Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 14

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 14

Chapter 14
Love Changes Things: March 30, 2012

’Cause you got me, and baby, I got you. Babe, I got you, babe.
—Sonny Bono

Come close and lean in hard. Just peek around the corner of this curtain, and you can glimpse thirty-nine years of marriage—a marriage not merely spent sticking it out, but rather, sticking together.

This weekend is not just an ordinary weekend in the lives of my mom and dad. This Saturday, March 30, they will celebrate thirty-nine years of marriage. My dad knew this weeks ago, when he originally planned to drive the bus for a youth-group trip to Branson, Missouri. Since days and dates aren’t really a big deal for Mom right now, he thought they would celebrate either before or after he left.

But love changes things.

If you could pull back the curtain of my parents’ thirty-nine years of marriage, you would see laughter—lots of laughter. You would see a home filled and bustling with constant company and warmth. You would see pictures of friends, collected over a lifetime, hanging on the refrigerator. You would see sticky notes and to-do lists all over the house, reminding Mom and Dad of meetings and errands. You would see their bedroom set up as a haven for rest and intimacy. And their king-size bed neatly made with love—noticeable love.

I imagine Mom and Dad never dreamed in their thirty-ninth year, their story would be written this way, with Dad gently lifting Mom’s broken body onto a plastic stool to bathe her with his farm-boy hands and his preacher-man heart. In this story, Mom hears his solid, confident voice reading her Bible study to her because she can no longer read. He chops Mama’s food into bite-sized pieces and places a bib around her neck. He weaves her through crowds in her wheelchair, after he places Mama’s hands in her lap so the wheels don’t tear up her timeworn hands. And every night as the sun sets, he tenderly pulls cozy blankets over the frail and weary reflection of his bride, his beloved wife.

How can anyone’s heart survive such heart-wrenching darkness, you ask?

Because love changes things.

After ten and a half years of marriage, I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on love. But now, as I watch how my daddy loves my mama through the horrible, awful of Alzheimer’s disease, I fear I have much to learn.

I cannot read my dad’s mind, but I know he ended up wanting to be with my mom on their anniversary because love changes things. Dad chose Mom. He has been choosing Mom for well over thirty-nine years.

My mom will no sooner remember this act than she will remember the numbers of the multiplication chart. But he will always know. I will always know. You will always know. The love of this man is neither deterred nor diminished by the ugliness of Alzheimer’s.

Dad and Mom,
“Happy Anniversary” seems so inadequate!
Thank you for loving each other, not giving up on each other, holding each other close on sweet days and on sour days. Thank you for pouring love onto each other, day after day, year after year. Thank you for laying down your lives for each other and for constantly pursuing Jesus and each other. Thanks for saturating each other in grace and forgiveness so love would have a place to grow.
I am the wife I am because I was unbelievably blessed through witnessing your marriage, your love for each other, and your utter dependence on Jesus to see you through.
Thank you for allowing love to change you.

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 16

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 16

Chapter 16
The Agony of Letting Go: July 19, 2012

God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
—Acts 2:24 NASB

She was screaming and cussing so loud I wanted to cover my ears, slouch down into the chair, and disappear. Anger spewed out of her mouth as the nurses and doctors in the emergency room reviewed her health history with Dad. Tears threatened to overflow as I watched her body twist and turn with torment in the hospital bed. Had I not been born of her body and known her unalterable love for Jesus, I would have sworn demons had possessed her.

We had been warned paranoia and personality alterations were all parts of the disease. We knew someday we would look into her eyes and see only vacancy. We knew the slow fading of sweet Mama was a guaranteed part of the storm.

The storm has worsened for Mama. She is rarely sleeping at night and needs constant care and attention during the day. Mama’s mind is rapidly betraying her. Fear and panic are engulfing her at every moment, day and night. Glimpses of the real Val are becoming rarer and rarer to behold. The Alzheimer’s is raging a nasty war. Mama’s brain is not resting, and her soul is floundering. We are desperate to offer her relief from this hell on earth—the yelling, crying, anger, uncontrollable weeping, confusion, and heart-wrenching sorrow.

Every ounce of our energy, resources, and ability to keep walking with Mama in a healthy and steady manner has dried up. The disease has made it impossible for us to care for her in the way she is worthy of being cared for. We need help.

Sometimes love means admitting your mama to a psychiatric ward as your heart bursts into a million pieces inside of you. Sometimes love means listening to her as she is calling after you, begging you to turn around and rescue her from the white walls of the unknown. Sometimes love means walking down a long, terrifying hallway and hearing the metal doors snap into lockdown mode as you exit; you’re on one side of the door, and your mother is on the other.

The Notebook has nothing on us. Today sucked. We are swimming in a pool of guilt.

Memories of today—nothing but raw, bleeding sadness—will haunt us for the rest of our lives. After we’ve walked through today’s experience, surely her death will feel like a glorious gift.

The nurse must have seen the despair and horror in our eyes. She slowly walked up to our huddled group and whispered, “We are going to stabilize your mom and your wife” as she nodded kindly toward Daddy. “We are going to find the perfect cocktail of medicine, so the disease will stop suffocating her brain. I promise each of you, we are going to give her rest.”

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 31

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: Chapter 31

Chapter 31
She Didn’t Say Good-Bye: August 21, 2014

Never say good-bye because good-bye means going away and going away means forgetting.
—J. M. Barrie

My mom didn’t say good-bye to me. We didn’t have that “inevitable” conversation in which she told me everything she wanted to tell me before she could no longer tell me anything. Somehow we progressed through the stages so quickly that before she or I realized it, she was no longer able to tell me good-bye.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, they write letters, they video themselves, they plan ahead for the time when their minds are no longer true to who they are, and their bodies wait in anticipation to get “the signal.”

That was not Mom’s way. We actually talked very little about the moment when I would be without her. She knew it would come; she was no fool. But while there was time, Mama lived. She took every opportunity to retell stories from her life because the past was far clearer to her than the present. She made funny jokes and pushed all of our buttons just to make sure we were all still who her heart told her we were. We obliged and often responded in our truest form, especially Zach.

Mom took every opportunity to remind us this disease touching her had come through the hands of her God. One day, while she was having lunch with me, she reminded me again (Alzheimer’s patients do lots of reminding) of this truth, to which I replied, “Mama, I know that is true and I believe it with all my heart, but it does not mean that I am not a little pissed about it and a whole lot sad about it!”

Standing at my kitchen sink, she burst into tears and cried, “It is shitty! Oh, it is so very shitty, isn’t it?”
We held each other and cried, and that was the closest we ever came to saying good-bye.

I can imagine now better than before her mama heart would never let her resign herself to the fact that she would have to go on and leave her crew behind. As a mom, I know my children will always be just that: children. No matter their ages or positions, I’ll always be their mama and they will always be my children. The word children evokes the need for care and keeping, and what had always been true for her was morphing into something unknown. She had always been the one to care and keep, but now, for the first time ever, we were caring for and keeping her. In her own way, though, she kept caring for and keeping us by fighting diligently and never letting us see her resign herself to the disease. Some might call that process denial, others self-preservation.

While Mama never officially said good-bye, she left me with an entire lifetime of memories to remind me of the way she felt about me. There is no doubt in my mind my mother adored me, and secretly I was her favorite. (It’s a joke, everyone. Relax) My mom sacrificed her entire life to see we were cared for and kept. It wasn’t always perfect, and she would be the first to tell you, but she was there. And every day, as I wipe the table for the tenth time, sweep the floor for the fifth time, make the twenty-first meal in seven days, fold another load of laundry, chop another onion for ground beef, and wash another dish, I hear her reminding me, “Be here! Live on! Don’t miss this!”

Thanks for fighting, Mom. Thanks for living!

Link to book: Living In The Storm

Dear Parents Who Have Had A Child Die

Dear Parents Who Have Had A Child Die

During our family’s dance with my Mama’s Alzheimer’s, people would routinely say to me, “I don’t know how you’re doing this!” I deeply appreciated the verbal acknowledgement of the stunning loss we were grappling with. I deeply appreciated how people were willing to consider the reality we were being asked to embrace. I deeply appreciated the insight of the on-lookers, and the admittance of their inability to fully relate, but the absolute desire to show up and be in relationship despite the unfamiliar terrain they were being asked to walk. That’s what love does during trauma and loss; LOVE SHOWS UP!

My sweet hometown of Kansas City, has been plagued with some horrific and tragic accidents in the last few weeks. Each accident, culminating in a child being called home to glory sooner than human hearts were ready. Each accident cascading paralyzing sorrow and loss to all who stood near-by or drew near.

When grief visits you, when grief unwantingly invites itself into the intimate chambers of your life, you often find yourself staggering through a formless, nameless darkness, and it hurts like hell.

After some time in my own grief journey, it became healing to watch others love their mothers better and deeper in light of our loss. It didn’t always feel this way. In the beginning, I wrestled with bitterness as I watched other daughters my age dote on their very alive mothers. But time cushioned the grief, and now I delight in seeing children marinating in their parent’s presence. When people say, “I am making an effort to be there for my mom,” and “your story reminded me of how important it is to show up for my parents and spoil the snot out of them,” those, those small glimpses of our pain being put into practice for sweeter love, often leaves me speechless.

Dear Parents Who Have Had A Child Die,

You might not be ready to hear this, and I totally get that. You have complete permission to rise up internally and be mad and bitter at me because today, my children are alive. I’ll hold that space for you, because people have held the identical space for me. But when you are ready, when the grief doesn’t seem like a heavy blanket suffocating you, I hope these words offer you a moment’s reprieve from your sadness.

I was irritated the other night because red Mississippi mud was plastered all over her brand-new softball pants. My original technique did not get out the stains, so as I started round two I thought about you. I thought about how you would give anything to wash those baseball pants, those soccer shorts, those carrot-stained bloomers one more time. And while I thought about you, I cried and grabbed the tooth brush and scrubbed. Because of you, I released that stupid irritation and ran my hands over Katie’s softball pants as if it was the most precious jewel I owned. Because of you.

Clearly, she woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She stomped through her morning routine while growling under her breath. The bacon was too cooked, her water bottle was dirty and her favorite shorts weren’t clean. I was about to launch into a major Mama lecture when I thought about you. I paused and wondered how you would tell me to respond in light of your current ache. As she plumped to the ground to slip on her Tevas, I knelt down beside Julia and squeezed the mess out her. I lingered while she rested her head on my chest. Because of you.

She had a virus last week, something in the virus has attacked her inner ear, causing some high squealing and annoying screaming. It took several days to figure out why she wasn’t sleeping well, consequently no one has been sleeping well as we tried to trouble-shoot. Each night, for several nights, she has asked to sleep in our room and for me to lay with her until she falls asleep. “Mama, will you rub my arm until the screaming stops?” My flesh wants to be finishing the prime-time Olympic hour, but then I think of you. I know the tears that are falling on your pillow are tears of, “what-ifs, if-onlys, and “if I only had…..” And I know you don’t care two-cents right now about who wins the Olympics. And you would tell me the only gold medal that matters is found in the eyes of my little girl. And so I stretch out beside her, I take her 9 year old hand in mine and I trace my thumb around and around her thumb. I feel her breathing slow and her tiny hand relaxes in mine. I brush my lips across her precious cheek and whisper, “I love you, Lucy!” Because of you.

We have a house rule that Dr.Seuss cannot be read for school reading. He is too wordy, and ain’t nobody got time for those 62 pages (x2). My boy walked into the house looking like a drowned rat and smelling like a puppy dog, “Mama, it is HOT outside!” I grinned, “Sure is, baby!” He opened his back-pack and pulled out Dr. Seuss and all 62 pages of his glory. This wryer grin spread across Anderson’s face, “But Mama, I was running late in library and this is all I could find!” “For real?” my eyebrows rose. “Mama, plllllleeeeeeaaaassse!” I sighed and thought of you, “Bring me the book.” 62 (x2) pages later, he smooched me on my lips and said, “You’re the best Mama!” And the tears began to spill over. Because of you.

I can offer no solutions, no easy fixes, no rewind features or do-overs. But in my living, I will honor your hurting by loving my kids a little bit better. In my living, I will honor your aching, by pausing more, saying, “yes” more than “no”, and tuning out the white noise to find my children. In my living…..because of you!


3 Secrets On How To Parent A Junior-Higher

3 Secrets On How To Parent A Junior-Higher

New parent of a junior-higher, come sit with me on my porch, . I have 3 things I need to tell you before you send that pubescent creature, whom you recall was a squishy toddler just yesterday, out your front door to their first day of junior high. There are 3 things I learned this past school year you might find helpful or horrible or both.

1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Here’s the good news, if you can force yourself to remember your own junior-high experiences and use those memories as a foundation from which you function and respond with your now junior-higher, you will be WAY ahead of the game. I didn’t have a horrific junior-high experience, but there is not enough money on this planet to send me back there. This mind-set was my life-vest as I re-entered junior-high in the 21st century, as a MOM.

It is the BEST of times, it is the WORST of times. Your junior-higher will most likely pendulum between these two realities. It can and will change daily, hourly, or on a moments notice with no explanation and no warning. Do you remember your emotional state in junior-high? I DO! I clearly remember feeling out of control a lot and having absolutely NO IDEA why. I mean, I felt this way last week too, but whatever… the pendulum is WAY more stable now that I’m 34.  😉

The cruel and GREAT things about junior-high still exist today. Remember that. These junior-highers may appear to still be small, but they are tiny adults carrying and processing complicated concepts and dilemmas. I was stunned at the different minefields we danced through this year alone. I don’t believe Mark and I are naive or have tried to shelter our children from real life. We are very passionate about introducing topics to our kids at a very young age so WE can be the ones to pen those narratives. Katie was 6, when she first asked us what abortion meant. We told her. We have always believed if you are old enough to ask it, then you are old enough to receive an age appropriate answer. Even still, I spent MANY days grieving the reality of this major transition and all the implications. Y’all, our junior-highers are dealing with REAL stuff. HARD stuff. PAINFUL stuff. Things like cutting, eating disorders, boyfriends, girlfriends, homosexuality, healthy friendships, toxic friendships, drugs, rape, suicide, body shaming, sexual abuse, social media, porn, sex, sexting, cyber-bullying, bullying, blow jobs, masturbation, molestation, and depression. (I need a glass of wine just typing all of those words!) Not to mention, the on-going battle of regular, palpable insecurities everyone is trying to sort out in junior-high.

Parents, please do not run away from these dances in the minefields with your junior-higher. Will it be uncomfortable? Absolutely. Will you squirm on the inside and feel a slight nausea overcome your soul as you explain different terms, positions and procedures? Yeah, you sure will! But oh my goodness, the pay-off is brilliant.

2. Show.Up.

Literally, show up. Be present in your junior-highers life. I think we are tempted to believe because our junior-highers physically need us less, we can detach or go on auto-pilot.  FIGHT THIS LIE. Keep showing up. This last year, I felt like Katie needed our presence in her life MORE THAN EVER before. Notice, I didn’t say she needed our advice or bossiness or nagging or meddling…She needed our PRESENCE. Our consistent, still presence.

3. Listen more than you speak.…. this was so hard for me this last year. And sometimes I completely BLEW IT and verbally vomited all over Katie without pausing to pause. Many times I REACTED when I should have RESPONDED. There is a MAJOR difference. But in the tender moments, when I listened to the inner-monologue in my head screaming at me to shut up, I was overwhelmed at the glimpses my sweet girl gave me into her life, into her thoughts, into her heart. The more I was willing to lead with listening, the more vulnerable and soft my conversations with Katie became. A gift.

You guys, Mark and I spent a lot of last year looking at each other with big eyes that spoke, “what in the heck are we doing?!”

But the prize?? Oh the prize.

Friends, we have this girl who lives with us, who became apart of our world on December 7th, 2002 when that test glowed positive… and she is the most amazing creature who deserves ALL OF US! Every inch and fiber of life we can muster up. All of the uncomfortable, awkward and painful become null and void as she blossoms into this incredible woman who is far kinder, wiser and brighter than we could have EVER imagined.

Nothing about junior-high has been easy, but is has been beautiful, raw and unendingly rewarding.

Parents, you WILL survive this next year. There will be days you won’t think you will, but you will. Some days will be messy and rotten. Mamas, you might cry as often as your junior-high daughter. Dads, you might need some serious therapy. But you will make it. One day, one triage at a time!


Here’s to junior-high!