In the eye of the beholder…

Green tops, green pants. The women of La Vista Correctional Facility filed into the visitors area for our time together. Some entered with smiles, others came visibly bearing their burdens. Several looked fresh out of high school. Blond hair, blue eyes, pretty smiles… and prison garb.  A few wore orange pants, a signal that they had broken a rule and were now separated from the rest of the prison population.

Jodi and Carol, the faithful warriors who serve the women every week, put on the worship music. The ladies lit up. Hands raised, the inmates began to fill the room with praise.

I closed my eyes, it seemed like a hundred women were singing together, so strong and passionate was their song.

I could almost picture the angels surrounding us. Mighty. Glorious. Majestic. It truly felt as if their voices mingled with our own.

I opened my eyes and scanned the room. My eyes lingered on the heavy metal doors locked from either side. And the bathroom to the right with a simple paper sign taped to its door: “Offender Restroom.”

I lingered on the first word.


I turned to look at the women. Arms raised in worship. Tears on their cheeks.

Back to the sign.


I bowed my head as the tears slid down my cheeks.

Offender. Yes, each woman there was serving time for a crime she committed. But as I watched these ladies worship, a whole different set of words came to mind.

Princess. Beloved. Cherished. Redeemed. Rescued.


Some secrets are meant to be kept (Flashback Friday)

From January 21st, 2005

Sami and me about the time I wrote this story

Sami and I have a secret, sacred mother-daughter code. Anytime that we share
something with each other that we don’t want anyone else to know, we put up
our pinky fingers, lock them, do a little circular handshake and intone
“Mother-daughter sphere—promise?” This is to keep Sami from spilling out my
most embarrassing moments (which I spill out perfectly well on my own), and
it keeps Sami’s adventures from winding up in a magazine, book or blog (at least without her permission).

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I forget to use the code, thinking that some
things will just be assumed as private, personal information.

Not very smart.

So we went to Austin this last weekend. Brian, the man I’ve fallen in love
with, came along to sit under the spotlight and be interrogated by some more
family members. He did well. He played basketball with the boys, talked with
my niece and pulled out all the paperwork on his financial, medical and criminal history for my brother and his wife to peruse.

And still, I thought, he loves me.

The dating days 🙂

So back to the sphere. One evening we went bowling with the family. I took my turn, bowled the perfect strike and turned to see Sami talking to Brian. He was grinning. I was suddenly nervous.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Sami took her turn and Brian was still smiling.

“Talk to me, Brian.”

“Sami just informed me that I need to marry you in two months.”

I gulped. “She did?”

“She just wanted me to know that you would say yes if I asked you.”

I remembered the conversation. “Mom, would you say yes if Brian asked you to
marry him?”


That was it. No pinkies in circular motion. No mother-daughter secret,
sacred code. What was I thinking? I tried to redeem the moment by putting on
my most mysterious and alluring look. I tried to bat my lashes. I went for the
I-will-say-yes-but-I-want-to-maintain-the-element-of-surprise attitude that
I once had going for me. I fluttered my lashes again.

Brian peered at me closely and asked if there was something in my eye.

I shook my head and smiled in my full-on embarrassed dimpled goofiness.

And still, I thought to myself, he loves me.

Is it really necessary to squawk like that??

Its 5:30 in the morning.

It’s still dark out, but they’re chattering like they’re in a crowded restaurant at noon.

I wake up to them.

It’s spring. It’s nearly dawn. And the birds are announcing the day.

“It’s here! It’s here!”

I don’t know how they know the sun is rising. It’s still dark. But as the black turns to steel gray which turns to soft pink, they continue their squawking with animated delight.

Half asleep, I put their conversation to words – each sentence punctuated with explanation points:

“The sun is coming!”

“I know! I wasn’t sure if it would, but it’s coming!”

“Aha! It’s turning gray! I knew it! I knew it!”

“The sun! The sun!”

“See? Its pink! It’s been dark for so long! Finally, the sun!”

“Wahoo! Yipppeeee!”

“Wait! Didn’t we do this yesterday?!”

Some mornings I grumble and pull the covers over my head. Other mornings I want to throw open the window and squirt them with my Double Barrel Super Soaker water gun.

“Move to Kansas!” I want to yell.

Not sure why.

But this morning, I just lay there and listened. I put words to their squawks and smiled.

Then my thoughts drifted to Easter, and the steely darkness of that early Sunday before the dawn. How quiet and sad and lonely those moments must have been before the birds began to sing.

Ah, but when they did… when the sky went from inky black to steel gray to pink… oh my, I bet you the birds went wild that morning.

“The Son is coming! The Son is coming!”

“It’s been dark for so long! And now the stone has been rolled away, I knew it! I knew it!

I wonder if all of creation celebrated that day, if the birds sang, the wind danced and the trees swayed in delight…

I like to think so.

For death could not hold him. Not our Savior. Not our Jesus.

Oh, what a day it must have been.

One Mom’s Fight Against Tuckuses and Ticks (Flashback Friday)

From March, 2006 (Sam was 14 – at 19, she now makes much better musical decisions!) :

Sam loves music. If she could, her headphones would be surgically implanted for her constant listening pleasure.

Unfortunately some of the music Sam enjoys falls way short of my this-is-so-not-good-for-you parental antennae. We’ll be in the car, flipping through stations and a popular song will come on. Sam will sing away as someone discusses someone else’s tuckus and his or her appreciation thereof. I’ll quickly turn the station to something I used to consider harmless, like country, only to discover lyrics about a naughty country boy checking his country girl for ticks. And it seems no matter where I turn, Sam knows the words.

She’s hearing it somewhere.

So I worry. And I find myself wanting to protect Sam from all the stuff that’s out there. When I really think about it (TV, music, movies, Internet), I’m tempted to lock her in her room, tutor her myself and only let her listen to K-Love and the Sound of Music soundtrack over and over and over (Although that Julie Andrews was a bit of a wild woman herself).

But then Sam went on a mission trip over Spring Break. She went to Gulfport, Mississippi and helped out some folks who didn’t have anything. She actually tore down a home . . . and loved every minute of it. She came back in tears, saying she hadn’t wanted to leave. Her heart was tender towards those she served and her heart was tender towards God. She lay in her bed that evening and asked God to help her stand firm spiritually. She wanted to be a light for him.

It brought tears to my eyes when she told me about it.

The next day, she didn’t even ask to flip through other stations when Brian drove her to school. She wanted to do life differently.

Of course, by the end of the week, I caught her singing about those darn ticks again . . . but those few days taught me something.

We can have rules and guidelines and boundaries in our home (and we do), but the thing that changes Sam’s heart, the thing that changes mine . . . is encountering God in real life situations. It’s all about falling in love with him and wanting to do life differently because of the love we’ve experienced. If life is all about the things we can’t do, it’s overwhelming. Because there’s SO MUCH we should avoid. But if life is about our time with
God – and the adventure, joy, life and hope we find as we love him and reach out to others… well, then, those silly songs, lousy movies and tempting distractions will lose their appeal.

Because He is so much more beautiful.

A Bit Big for Their Britches

It’s not often that I laugh out loud during my quiet time, but it happened this morning.

I was reading in Luke. Jesus and the disciples were heading into a village and the people there didn’t welcome him. James and John were a little miffed, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”

I stopped. Did they really say what I think they just said?

I read it again. Pictured the scene. Shoulders back, jostling each other a bit and flexing their guns as they looked at Jesus. They were ready for a fight. “Hey Jesus, want us to take care of that? Smite them for ya?”

Jesus. King. Savior. Holy One. The One who could call down a legion of angels at a moment’s notice. And the disciples, full of bravado, “Want us to take care of that for you? Call down some fire and brimstone?”

I can only picture the look on his face. Really? You’re going to call down fire from heaven? You boys can’t even rub two sticks together for a decent spark…

I wonder if the disciples thought Jesus was a bit too much into mercy, a touch too attached to grace.  You know, maybe they should step in and help Jesus take a stand.

A little less love, a lot more smiting— that’ll show ‘em.

But Jesus didn’t smite those who didn’t know him yet. He saved his anger for those who said they belonged to God, but acted like they were all that and a bag of manna.

No smiting today, boys.

Shoulders slumped. Ego deflated.



Mile Marker 42

I am so not dignified. Really. It’s mildly embarrassing how giddy I get when I’m about to see my man. When I arrived home Sunday night after a busy run of travel, I had a smile on my face before I even exited the plane.

My grin broadened as I walked through the terminal and climbed on board the train. Random people smiled back.

My joy grew by increments of warm fuzzies and mild goofiness as the train came to a stop.

I nearly bounded up the escalator before remembering, Come now, Elsa, professional women don’t bound.

Finally. I scanned the crowd. Caught glimpse of that smile. Threw decorum to the wind and bounded into my man’s strong arms and melted against his chest.

Oh, how I love coming home.

That was just the beginning. We gathered the luggage, jumped in the car and headed south. With each mile marker, my sense of expectation grew.

Mile marker 163… getting close.

Mile marker 200. The magic number.


I walked in the door to puppies jumping, and my girl squealing “Mommy!”

Yes, she’s 19. Yes, she still squeals “Mommy!”

Oh, how I love coming home.

As I lay in bed that night, content and warm, the thought came to mind: I have another home too.

And when I get there, my Savior will meet me at the gate. Broad smile, twinkling eyes, ready embrace. Without decorum, I will bound into his arms and melt into his love.

I’ll turn to see my dad, my nephew, my brother and my grandparents.

I’m at mile marker 42.  Not sure where the exit is, but the sense of expectation is growing.  Some day…. One day…. we’ll all be home. And if I’m goofy giddy at the prospect of my earthly home, I can’t imagine how explosive the joy will be when I bound into the arms of my Savior.


Oh, how I will love coming home.

Quiet and courage

Danielle, me and Caleb – 1996ish

Just a few days before Caleb’s accident

I want to make it better.

I want to walk in the door with Caleb on my arm. I want to bring him back to his mom and dad right now.

This life can be so hard.

There is no coming back for Caleb.

He is not here. And I sense his absence in the quiet.  It’s not a normal quiet. Not an empty nest quiet. It’s a robbed nest quiet. It feels unnatural and wrong.

I love my brother and I love his wife. I love my nephew, Luke and beautiful Danielle.

And I love Caleb.

I miss him.

This house, here in Austin, is filled with quiet and courage. The quiet of Caleb’s absence and the courage of a family who valiantly lives forward without him.  They are so beautiful to me, even in sorrow. I love and admire and respect them. They hold tight to Jesus and walk this road the best they can.

But I still wish I could make it better.

Lord, I wish I could make it better.

That’s all I have to say about that.