Spiderman, butterflies and you

It was a perfect day for a spider man party. We all met at a park with a newly reopened playground. The sun was bright, the sky blue. The nearest pavilion was packed full of people so the birthday boy’s mom and dad set up a nice spread in the shade of a tree. Another pavilion was open across the way, but it would have been a hike for all the little ones to go back and forth to the playground.

We tossed around the idea of setting up the whole party under the tree – in the shade and close to the playground.

“I don’t know,” his mom said, worried. “Jude really wanted a party. I’m afraid it won’t feel like a party to him if we can’t decorate the table.”

“Well, let’s ask him,” his dad said.

They called over their little man. “Jude, would you like to stay here close to the playground or go over there to the tables and decorate one of them?”

Jude pointed. Definitely the tables. Definitely the decorations.

His mom smiled, “I knew it! I know my Jude…”


Her words stayed with me. I know my Jude… 

Such a sweet parent. Jude had been wishing and dreaming of his birthday party for weeks. His mom and dad knew just what he longed for and delighted in giving it to him.

I felt like God whispered to my heart – That’s how I think.

I forget that sometimes. That God loves giving good gifts. And not just random good gifts but gifts that matter to our heart. In this season, it’s hard to see the good. It’s easy to miss the sweet gifts as our minds focus on all that’s wrong in the world. All that hurts. All that doesn’t work right now.

But then.

On Sunday I walked into the backyard to see a yellow butterfly. Yellow butterflies always remind me of my dad. It seems like every time I think of him, I see one. On this Father’s Day the butterfly seemed to linger, dancing through the air as it passed. It’s been over ten years since my dad’s been gone and I miss him.  It brought tears to my eyes.

It was a little thing, but almost immediately I heard that still, small voice in my thoughts. I know my Elsa…

A little gift. A God kiss. Just because he sees and he knows.

I want to do a better job of seeing. Not missing those gifts. 

I want that for you, too. The next good thing that comes your way – the song that touches your heart. The sunset. The flowers blooming in an unexpected spot. The words of a friend. The kindness of a stranger. The good movie, the great read, the perfect piece of chocolate after your workout. Whatever good gift, think of the giver.

He’s happy to give it.

As he thinks of you. Knows you. Loves you.

I know my child…


But then…

I stood beside my mom as the young couple talked to me. They greeted her and then barely glanced her direction for the rest of the conversation.

 She’s 84, she’s my mom, and as an elderly woman – she was dismissed. 

But then our neighbor down the street came by our house. He is a police officer. It was at just the start of COVID19 and he knocked on our door. “I noticed your mom lives with you. If you need any help, here’s my card. Text me. I can get groceries for you, keep you informed on what’s going on. Whatever you need. I’m here.”

He saw her and he served her.


The children didn’t see me watching out the window. We had some friends over and their young son played with our kids out on the trampoline. The boy pushed Lovence hard onto the trampoline. Lovence is special needs and non-verbal – older, but without his own voice. This child knew and took advantage of the moment. 

It’s scary. Without a voice, he became an easy target.

But then the teachers at Lovence’s school came by for his birthday. The parade included a firetruck, an ambulance and a slew of cars decorated for his special day. They honked and yelled and cheered for my sweet boy.

They saw him and they celebrated him.


I was an overweight teen. A heavy teenage girl who thought tube socks were a fabulous accessory to a plaid skirt. I also bore the most embarrassing last name (Kok). The kids had a field day with my awkwardness, and I withdrew into myself.

I didn’t fit and I knew it… and so did everyone else.

But then there was the valedictorian of our high school class – years later he lost his life in the 9/11 attacks. But he was kind to me. He didn’t seem to notice my oddities. He saw me as a human being. He talked with me. He joked with me.

I was seen and it stays with me today.


My Haitian girl was mocked for the color of her skin – dark and glowing and beautiful – but different to those in her circle. She took in those words and for weeks hated the color of her own skin, wishing she could change it. 

It’s heartbreaking, such beauty dismissed and demeaned.

But then there was the Kenyan runner in our community – a future olympian who won a 10 mile race with incredible speed and athleticism. My husband approached her and introduced her to our daughter. Her dark skin mirrored our girl and her strong spirit matched her own. In the midst of a busy running career, she took time and loved on our girl.

She saw her and our daughter reveled in it.


I don’t want to cry victim, for even the wrongs brought change. As a result of her heartache, my mom started calling others who might feel invisible – reaching out to the lonely. Lovence is brave, standing in the face of the pain. I grew in my love and compassion for those  who feel like misfits. And my Haitian girl has grown a strong sense of pride in her heritage and in justice for the offended.

But I wish it were different.

It’s not.

And so for me I want to be part of the BUT THEN movement. Pain comes, but then a tender soul brings healing with their kindness. Riots destroy, but then a community comes together to clean it up and help each other rebuild. Racism demeans but then a nation chooses to live and love and see in new and honoring ways. 

And my BUT THEN is to see the people around me. See their uniqueness, see their value. See their beauty. See their strength. See their gifts. Just look them in the eyes and see them, period. 

I can’t fix the whole world, but then I can see the people God sets in my path today – be in the moment, look them in their eyes and love them well.

What is your but then in the face of your injustice?

Let’s start a movement.


Fur ball love

His eyes follow me wherever I go.

If I head up the stairs, he is right there beside me. He lays down at my feet as I fold laundry. He jumps onto the bed as I do bedtime with the littles. He is always aware of where I am and what I’m doing.

He checks on each little when he wakes. Sniffing, wagging, checking in to make sure they are well. He sits on their feet. They are mine, he says.

He barks at loud noises and stands ready to devour anyone who might threaten his people.

He is fluffy and handsome, and he loves his belly scratched.

And although my hubby is a stud muffin and for sure loves a good belly scratch –  I’m talking about my dog.

My dog is part shepherd. 


And as I watch him watch me, his breed really strikes me. A shepherd. Aware at all times, ready to protect, always near, always devoted, always on alert. Loving, protective, close.

Yesterday I was doing homeschooling with the kids – Laurentz read about a shepherd – a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. A shepherd who lovingly says, “They are mine.” A shepherd who is compassionate, protective, close.

His eyes are on you. His eyes are on me. He doesn’t miss a beat.

He is our shepherd and we are his.

So friends, if you have any type of critter that loves you through thick and thin, protects you, sits on your feet and snuggles you close – know that God may be using that warm fur ball to remind you of a love that will see us through every moment of the coming days, weeks and months. 

We are not alone.

A Birthday Ditty for my Jesus

We love birthdays around our house. We party big. We talk love. During birthday dinners, we always go around the table and share what we love about that person. For Christmas this year, I decided to do that in poem form for Jesus. I read it out loud at our Christmas meal and cried – just like I cry at every birthday. In fact, our littlest runs to get a box of tissues before I even start speaking about the things I love. I don’t know why I can’t keep it together, it is what it is.

So here is my poem for Jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Lord.

It’s so different than it used to be,

this love that fills my heart

This sense of joy and connection

from which I never want to part.


Religion was once a boring pursuit

A duty to gravely tend to

One I soon easily abandoned

When I couldn’t measure up to you.


Like a little kid tired of the rules

I filled my backpack and hit the road

I did what I wanted, oh what I wanted

Those nasty rules did I unload


I’m not sure I saw it coming

The traps the enemy carefully laid for me

Trying to get me caught in addiction

to love, to attention, to me.


Nothing was ever enough

as I pursued value everywhere else

Looking for the world to tell me good

until I came to the end of myself


You were there, as you’d been all along

And you invited me to know you

You brought joyful people and passionate believers

Who lived the love they knew


They pointed me to your character

Your mercy, love and grace

They showed me your sense of humor

The smile on your face


They introduced me to your son

The one I’d thought was bound in rules

And I found a faithful friend and brother

Whose heart for people was his fuel.


You showed me your plan for life

To protect and free and guide

You showed me the love you live

By filling me up from the inside.


And as I’ve come to know your love

The grandest adventures you’ve brought my way

Fun people and joys, amazing pursuits

Beauty to capture every single day.


And there’s been heartaches, there’s been hurt

Pain that took my breath away

But instead of blaming you and yours

I fell into your arms to hear you say:


I’ve got you and I’ll never let you go

This world is broken, it’s true

But that’s why I sent my son

To bring hope, life and joy to you.


Comfort in the moment,

along with eternity in my sight

Just hold fast and let me see you through

Every wrong will I make right


And now I can see how you changed it

Changed it all by coming to earth

Entering into the most broken of places

to show us your love and our worth


You paved the way, you gave it all

to give us a home in your heart

And all we had to do was say yes

And believe in this beautiful new start.


It was never about the religion

The pious pinched and proud

It was always about you living love

thoroughly, completely, out loud.


So thank you for coming down to this earth

My beautiful savior and joy

Thank you for showing me your goodness

As you came to earth as baby boy.


Happy Birthday, my savior

My king, friend and best Christmas gift

May you hear the praises of many

And may this poem your heart lift


Because as I think of gifts to give

tor family, friends and guests

It’s you I want to thank the most

It’s your gift I want to be the best.


Because I love you more than life itself

I love you with tears, can’t see

I love you with all that I am…

Because, beautiful God, you first loved me

I’m so stinkin’ offended!

No, not by Santa in Rudolph – although I can agree with the recent news blitz that Santa needed a bit more sugar to sweeten up his sour.

And no, not by Charlie Brown – though that single hair on his bald little head does offend my sensibilities – and yes, in seriousness, as a mother of Haitian children, I wish Franklin had a buddy and a decent chair at the Thanksgiving table.

But my offense has been longer term – and landed me in a dark place – because simmering under the surface of my smile, I just didn’t get it. I was offended.

By God.

See, I didn’t understand why I had to be so different. Tall, awkward, heavy, pigeon-toed. Last name that essentially begged for a good joke – Kok. Middle school was horrific – particularly on the day I made a fashion statement by wearing a skirt and boy’s tube socks. Yes, I did that. Worse, I thought it was a good idea.

Later on I was angry about my broken marriage. It was painful and heartbreaking. I hated that I went through a divorce. Why me? Why was I a single parent when all my family members were happily married?

When my dad went sailing and his boat came home without him, I wrestled with a ton of questions. He had drowned. No goodbye. No answers. And then adding heartbreak to heartbreak, my strong, handsome nephew lost his life in a car accident 12 days later.

And the day our initial domestic adoption fell through – that dark Thursday when the baby was born and his mom gave him to another family. My heart was sick. I didn’t get it. Why? And when it took four long years to bring our babies home from Haiti, I was confused. It seemed wrong that they had to wait so long to know our hugs, snuggles and kisses. What was happening?

God didn’t see fit to follow my timeline, to preserve my heart the way I wanted him to. 

And in different seasons, in different quiet moments, I was offended.

I know I’m not alone.

I’ve heard your stories. I know many of your heartaches. Your road hasn’t been easy either. And we question the one who could fix it all in a moment’s notice – and yet doesn’t.

This morning I was reading in Luke. John the Baptist – a faithful man who paved the way for Jesus – was in prison. He had heard that Jesus was on the scene – the one he had been talking about for years, the one he leapt for in his own mother’s womb. And he had to wonder, Why I am I still in prison? Why hasn’t he come for me? He sends a few of his disciples to talk to him. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Kind of like, hey, if you’re the one, why haven’t you rescued John? And Jesus tells them to pass along a message to John. “Tell John what you have seen. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed…” in other words, good things are happening. I am here. He finishes by saying “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I imagine him saying that with tender eyes and a strong compelling voice. Tell John not to be offended. Hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. Then when the messengers are gone, Jesus goes on to tell the crowd how wonderful John is… of his faithfulness.

He is proud of him. He loves him.

Then why on earth would he leave him in prison? Why would he leave any of his kids – you and me – in yucky situations?

Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

We live in a world of offense. We live in a world of pain. We live in a world where racism, cruelty, bullying and hatred exist. We live in a world with evil in it – and it always seems to surprise us. That in itself should be evidence of our God and his goodness. We weren’t built for this. We were built for a far better world where love reigns and joy resides. We are offended because we were made for more and the evil blindsides us. 

Jesus asks us to lay down our offense. At him, at each other. Why? Because the story isn’t over yet. Because he wins. Because every wrong will be righted. He calls us to love him and love others deeply – to fight the offense with love. To see his goodness even when we are sitting in a prison cell. And I can see it. When I look back at the heartbreaks, I can see his goodness in it. How my awkward self and my pigeon toes were a temporary phase, not an identity, and how those painful years created in me a tender heart for the outcast. How he molded me and kept me and provided for me as a single mom. How he comforted me in my sadness over the loss of my dad and nephew. I see how the one failed adoption led to the four beautiful babies residing in our home today. And John the Baptist, sitting in that prison cell? Oh friends, I bet those days are long forgotten as John enjoys his saviors love and all the sweetness of heaven. Even his days in prison were not wasted – as we can all look to him and be encouraged in our own sorrows.

What’s even more amazing? Jesus put himself smack into the middle of offense. He lived, breathed and died love – and yet he was mocked, beaten, abandoned and killed. Did he rise up and fight the offense? Smite the offenders? He could have. But he didn’t. Instead he laid down his life, asked God to forgive those who were nailing him to a cross “for they know not what they do.”

Well shoot. That makes my offenses pale in comparison. At God – Jesus didn’t exempt himself from the heartbreak we all endure. At others – He loved the worst. Can I do the same?

Oh friends, as we trust him, as we love through offense – even though our ears may not hear it now – he is bragging about us. Just as he did with John. Only he is talking to the angels. “Look at her…” “Look at him…” “She is a bright light in this dark world. I love how she loves.” “He is a strong warrior for me – he is my beloved son.”

Yes, there is offense – and lots to be offended by… but hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Trust him. Love God. Love others. He will make all things right, in his time.

And oh, what a day that will be.

A Life in 50 Words.

I’ve been alive 50 years today. These fifty words sum up my wild ride:

Decade one (1-10): Innocent, family girl, adventurer, brave, water-skier, cliff-diver, boy crazy, tomboy.

Decade two (11-20): Insecure, awkward, foolish, bookworm, boy crazy, biker babe, self-conscious, self-defeating.

Decade three (21-30): Married, divorced, mother, broken, lost, found, grace, hope, author, speaker.

Decade four (31-40): Single mom, faith-driven, dreamer, hopeful, passionate, married, step-mom, empty nester.

Decade five (41-50): Communicator, swimmer, adoptive mom to one… two… three… four… wife, daughter, friend, adventurer, God crazy, woman.

Thank you for loving me strong for five decades, Jesus. You loved me as much when I was that naughty teenager as you do today (as a sometimes-naughty 50 year old). This life is all about you and I can’t imagine how it would have gone without you, Thank you, thank you, thank you for never letting me go.


I blew it.


I get it wrong.

I get it wrong a lot.

No, I don’t have a self-esteem issue. I’m not fishing for compliments to build myself up. I’m just telling you the flat out truth.

I mess up all the time.

Sure, I write about heartwarming parenting moments. I talk about those times I say just the right thing (thank you, Jesus!) and a little one gets it. I share goofy, fun glimpses into our chaotic world.

But those last all of about five minutes.

The other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day, I run three paces behind where I should be.

I have piles upon piles of disorganized chaos everywhere. In my bedroom, in the kid’s bedrooms, in the bathroom, tucked behind the couch. I keep committing to a day, a week, a month of getting it all organized but if I’m realistic, that day won’t come until Savannah graduates in 2031 (or so).

I forget birthdays. I overlook important people and space out on simple requests. I don’t take enough time with my man, my bigs, my littles, my mom, my dearest friends. It takes me 23 days to respond to simple texts requiring a one word answer. I drop the ball on my quiet times and blow the budget because… well, preparing the budget is one of those items on my endless to do list. I don’t do the follow up therapy with Lovence, all the homework with Wilna, the ABC’s with Laurentz and Savannah. I keep planning the trip to the library and hope to set aside a nightly reading time and work on cute art projects. It just hasn’t happened yet.

So we have no cool Dr. Suess memories and zero cute art in our home. (Except of course, the art my mom does with the kids – that stuff rocks).

Yesterday I overheard some parents at Savannah’s gymnastics class. They were talking about forcing their kids to sit quietly for an hour so they could take a nap. They looked young and capable and energetic. If they need a nap… my nearly 50 year old body said to me, you should definitely take one.

So I did. I went home with Savannah after class, I told her we were going to have some cuddle time. We both fell asleep and I savored the feel of her warm little body next to mine.

The dishes stayed undone.

The bills stayed unpaid.

Friends, when I get out of bed every morning, I fall on my knees and beg God to live, love and serve through me.

He does. But even God has limits with what he can do with this crochety old body.

This season of life, my kids and their unique needs, the meltdowns, the chaos, the laughter, the noise… I literally could not do it without him, and even so, still mess up with him.

There is a lot that stays undone.

And that’s why I’m writing this – first, may this serve as a blanket apology for the ways in which I may have let any of you down. I don’t mean to, I will get better – yeah, not really. I probably won’t get better – I just ask for your forgiveness. And for those who think I’m a little unrealistic on my warm fuzzy posts, just know that in the midst of my chaos – I need to write them. I need to focus on the good, highlight the joyful. I love to celebrate those sweet, beautiful moments – and thank God for them – because that sustains me in the midst of the meltdowns, the weariness and the weakness.

Because the beauty makes it all worthwhile.

And in that beauty I see our God.

Who loves me. Who loves you.

I may not be enough.

But he is.

And he will ultimately see us through it all.