This is my church.

The smell of fresh-washed earth fills my nostrils, soft breezes caressing my cheek, chilly air electric with the anticipation of a new season.

The gray sky kisses the dark limbs of the tree branches where golden leaves are falling and leaving barren bones.

Muddy hearts meld as we talk long and deep. Heart meets hurts, hard meets soft and we become a glorious mess in the moment.


Children’s chatter surrounds me, laughing loud and mixed with the sound of rustling trees and rushing creek water.


Stilettos come off and my toes sink into the mud as the long grass dances around me.


“Mama! Hold me!” I reach down and realize, THIS is where I belong, where I find God. This is my church.

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I imagine it’s me

I open the door, hoping that all the things I’ve heard are lies.

The creak is muffled by the sounds of sobbing. Some softly crying, some wailing, some frozen in fear, immobile and unable to understand what it happening.

“Mami! Papa!”

Repeatedly, those two words ring through my head. Different voices, different children. The same two important words.


I imagine the pain it would take to drive me to risk this. I imagine the gangs, the violence, the hunger. I imagine debating in my head and on paper whether the risk was worth the potential reward. I imaging how terrible my life must be if I determine that is the case.

I imagine a situation where I was willing to risk their lives and mine to escape. A situation where I wanted a better life, but found myself torn from them, imprisoned and hoping for their safety.

I imagine Jaylah, 6 years old, not knowing where I was, not knowing why she was in trouble, cold and hungry and confused. I imagine her walking up to one of the adults, reaching up, needing a hug and being told that they are not allowed to touch her. I imagine her crying, scared and vulnerable.


I imagine Jay… At 10 years old, I would most likely have told him why we were fleeing. I would have made it clear to him that this was dangerous, but it was far more dangerous to stay. He would be feeling responsible, like it was all his fault, snapping at his sister, angry that he could not protect her. He would be angry with me too. For putting him in this situation, for tearing our family apart. He would be devastated and trying to hold it all together like a little adult while his heart was tearing into pieces.


I imagine the moment they are torn from my arms. “Mom! Mom! Where are you going? Why are they taking us? What’s happening, Mom?” I imagine my inability to answer as I am being detained.

And my heart breaks.

Yes, I have heard the defenses. Bill Clinton started it. (Are we 5 years old?) They are illegal, they shouldn’t have put their child in harm’s way (Maybe they ONLY had the choice between one harm or another). If a parent in the US commits a crime, they are separated from their children (but the government does absolutely everything in their power to keep that family together). They made a choice (which you couldn’t possibly imagine with all your privileges) .

Tell me anything you want to attempt to defend yourself and I will go back to this one question:

When did we lose our sense of humanity?

If you have a heart, weep for the children and parents.
If you do not have a heart, at least weep for the empty in your future.

I read that recently and thought it was a perfect depiction of where we are right now.

This is not a political issue, my friends. This is a heart issue. And this is NOT what the Jesus I know would have wanted.

No matter what your beliefs, no matter what your political affiliation, no matter what has happened in your life, I feel that in your heart, you KNOW the right thing. You know because you are a part of humanity.


“it is the obligation of every person born in a safer room

to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”

— Dina Nayeri


But for all those who believe the Bible, I have a bit more of a treat for you. Since the administration continues to use scripture out of context to defend the situation at the border, I thought I would share a little about the Bible I read. Pardon the sarcasm, but I am angry. Angry and heartbroken. And I think people need to hear truth.


We call Abraham the Father of our Faith, somehow forgetting that he had to flee famine and poverty.

Moses was a refugee TWICE. Once for committing a crime in defense of his people, once when he was helping his people escape slavery and domination.

I look at the scriptures and I realize that Obed would be crying for his mama, his grandma. The story of Ruth would never have existed without the refugee status of Naomi.

Esther is upheld as a beautiful and strong woman, but we forget that she was a refugee, forced into her situation.

We love to hear the story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, but neglect the part that God was with them even though they were displaced.

There would be nothing after Bethlehem because the refugees Joseph and Mary would not have been allowed to stray with their baby Jesus.

But let’s say that ONE refugee is okay (He is Jesus after all).

That still leaves us with no Peter. He fled due to religious persecution.

There would be no Aquila and Priscilla to take care of Paul as he traveled because they were forced to leave Rome for the color of their skin.


Oh wait, the stories aren’t enough… You want to know what the Scripture SAYS?

Okay, here are some verses for you to ponder.

“The LORD appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said, “My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on—seeing that you have come your servant’s way.” They replied, “Do as you have said.” Gen. 18:1-5

“Hey Refugees/Foreigners/People I don’t know, please let me serve and help you! WTF kinda life is that? We need to take care of our own first!”

“The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground, he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last man—gathered about the house. And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.” Gen. 19:1-5

“He made them some food and let them sleep at his house?!?! He didn’t even know these people. I mean, they could have been criminals.”

There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you. Exodus 12:49

You should treat people the same whether they are a citizen or a refugee? Surely that is not in the Bible.

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans. Exodus 22:20-23

God says if you mistreat strangers, widows, orphans, he will be pissed. And bad things happen when God gets blazing angry! But, obviously, he favors us, so we can do whatever we want to people that aren’t like us.

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9

Just in case you didn’t hear it the last few times. Don’t be mean to the people who flee to your country, because at some point in your ancestry, your family was fleeing something.

You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 19:10

“Wait, what?!? We are supposed to leave food or jobs or good things for people who are poor and foreign? That’s ridiculous.”

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

“Maybe if we avoid the fact that the word stranger is used the way we use refugee, we could ignore this, right?!?!”

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. Leviticus 23:22

“Crap, here it is AGAIN. But the Bible has to say things a few times in order for that to be what I follow. Two isn’t enough.”

If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side. Leviticus 25:35.

“I’m running out of excuses on this.”

I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. Deut. 1:16

“Wait, we are even supposed to treat them fairly in court?”.

…but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.—You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deut. 10:18-19

“Whatever, using that powerful word ‘must’ to try to convey the importance… Oh wait, it an even stronger word in the original text… but let’s just ignore that.”


You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land. Deut. 23:8

“Oh wait, even the people who treated us badly years and years ago?”

You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him. Deut. 23:16-17

“This is too much.” For real though… I think I have proven my point to some extent. But if not, here are a few more.

Cursed be he who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.—And all the people shall say, Amen. Deut. 27:19

Or if a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name—for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when he comes to pray toward this House, oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the foreigner asks You for. Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built. I Kings 8:41-43

Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow. Isaiah 1:17

No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke. To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. Isaiah 58:6-7

No, if you really mend your ways and your actions; if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt—then only will I let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time. Jeremiah 7:5-7

Thus said the LORD: Do what is just and right; rescue from the defrauder him who is robbed; do not wrong the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; commit no lawless act, and do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place. Jeremiah 22:3

Fathers and mothers have been humiliated within you; strangers have been cheated in your midst; orphans and widows have been wronged within you. Ezekiel 22:7

And the people of the land have practiced fraud and committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and needy, have defrauded the stranger without redress. Ezekiel 22:29

But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me: Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause of] the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts. Malachi 3:5

No sojourner spent the night in the open; I opened my doors to the road. Job 31:32

Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Execute true justice; deal loyally and compassionately with one another. Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another. Zechariah 7:9-10

The LORD watches over the stranger; He gives courage to the orphan and widow, but makes the path of the wicked tortuous. Psalms 146:9

Here are some ways to help:


The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) –

The Texas Civil Rights Project is looking for people who can speak Spanish to translate for families as well as volunteers to assist with the legal intake process. Here’s their website:

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) tries to “prevent wrongful deportations by connecting refugee families to community support and emergency legal aid.” They’re currently looking for donations, volunteer attorneys, and interpreters. You can find them at:

The Florence Project and Refugee Rights Project provides free social and legal services to immigrants being detained in Arizona. They’re looking for donations and lawyers willing to take cases pro bono. You can visit them at:

And finally, sign petitions. All of us can do this and it doesn’t cost a thing. Petitions allow us to make our collective voice heard by politicians as well as asylum seekers and other people living in fear of their families being torn apart by ICE.  Here are just a few that you can add your voice to.





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Ten children were born, innocent and free.

Nine children remain, tainted and maimed.

Eight had the same mother, so strong and so fragile.

Seven saw their Father try to kill their brother.

Six were female, fighting to survive.

Five lived at home when he finally went to prison.

Four were white male, but without all the privilege.

Three went to college and made their life better.

Two remain married, weathering the storms.

One child is myself, and this is our story.

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Lilac Bushes

Their scent takes me to a place that few other things can.

They were fairy tales in the reality.

They were fun in the serious.

They were creativity in the boring.

They were peace in the chaos.

They were comfort in the pain.

They were strength in the hardship.

They were security in the fear.

They were quiet in the storm.

They were joy in the sadness.

They were laughter in the tears.



They were my palace as a pauper.

They were my shelter from the storms.

They are the reason I am still alive.

And I will forever be grateful for the time I lived in the lilac bushes.



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National Single Parent’s Day

13909299_1271478776198375_6579377178280344128_oIt takes a lot to be a parent. It takes more to be a working parent. And it takes everything you have to be a single parent.

And today, I want to celebrate my fellow single parents.

Single parents are strong, resilient, powerful, and lets just be honest here… sometimes a little on the crazy side.

Yes, our lives are difficult, but overcoming challenges has become ingrained as part of who we are.

It doesn’t matter if you chose to be a single parent from the beginning or if life and circumstances brought you to it, I admire you. I admire the sheer courage that you have to have on a daily basis to make it through. I admire you for doing double duty. I admire you for being the sole provider, the sole source of comfort and strength for your children.

Raising a child is probably the most nerve-wracking, terrifying, difficult thing anyone can do. It is exhausting and painful and lonely and hard. And even when you give your all, you are still left with guilt that you should have/ could have done better.

And as you go through the routines, the little moments, the day-to-day aspect of living, you can only hope that what you are doing will transform this challenging, stubborn child into a good human – respectful and kind and confident and loving. And of course, you want them to be happy more than anything.

As a society, we no longer raise children in a village. In fact, it’s rare to even know your own neighbors. Family is spread all over the world and we rely heavily on technology for communication. Our kids are isolated, interacting primarily with the family that lives in the home. And that means being a single parent is far more difficult sometimes. Because you are the sole source of everything for your child. You are the one who gets to create their memories. You are the person that decides whether they will remember their childhood as full of life and adventure or stagnant and missing adult interaction. You get to choose what to teach them, who to let in their life and what kind of influences you allow in your home.  And that, my dear friends, is a great big responsibility!

On top of being the primary source to these energy-suckers, you are also very much alone in your world.

Kid’s have an early bedtime, so socializing after is difficult. Routine is key, so weeknights are dedicated to kids and alone time until you finally fall asleep. If they act up, or (God forbid) you act up, you don’t have anyone there to reassure you that it will be okay. If you are sick, it doesn’t matter. You do the tasks or they don’t get done. You have to stay strong and consistent no matter what you are going through because there is no other person to explain things to them or enforce the rules. You miss out on so much because you are the sole source of income and work takes precedence. And the guilt for missing their lives eats at you every moment of every day. When they ask why their friend’s mom’s get to have lunch with them or come pick them up at school, you have to try to explain, in child’s terms, that you have to work to survive. And they don’t understand. They never fully understand.

All they know is what you do with them, what you do to them, what they see and feel. And that brings the temptation to spoil, to “keep them happy”, to falter on the consequences. It isn’t what they need long term, but your empty heart says that this can help fill their void. So you rationalize and spoil them, only to realize that is what you have been doing a few months later and berating yourself as you try to change things up again. And you try to find the balance and you feel like there is none.

It’s hard. So incredibly hard. But it is also worth it.

When their face lights up as you walk in the door, it’s worth it. That hug and kiss, repeated until you insist they go to sleep at night, it’s worth it. Reading stories together as you run your fingers through their hair and ponder how quickly they are growing, it’s worth it. When they tell you they want to be just like you, it’s worth it. When you see them stand up for themselves the first time, it’s worth it. When they show incredible kindness or empathy for someone in the world around them, it’s worth it.

You may have to do double or triple the work as a single parent, but you also see double or triple rewards. And I promise you, those tiny wonders make it all so worth it.


To my child,

You came into this world a squirming, squealing bundle of cuteness.

I pray that you leave the world having been a responsible, kind, loving, fulfilled, very, very old person.

And somewhere in there lies my responsibility.

Parenting you has been the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity of my life.

Being responsible for the person you become is daunting and overwhelming and hard and beautiful and fun and amazing, all wrapped up in one big package.

But I pray that in every moment of every day, you know how much I love you. I hope that you realize that I am more proud of you than of anything else in my life. And I hope you can see that the hard things that I do right now, they are all for you.

I never thought I would be raising you alone. I never considered that you might be one of the statistics that come from a broken home.

I know it hasn’t always been easy for you. I know you miss me when you are at his house and you miss him when you are at my house. I know that two sets of rules, two different expectations, two different lifestyles can be confusing and overwhelming.

I know I get things wrong and I am awkward and I didn’t really grow up in the same world that you face now.

But I want to let you know how much you joy you have brought to my world. I want you to know that you are my reason for breathing everyday. I want you to know that you are the best thing that ever happened to me.

And even when you make poor choices, even when I am upset with you… I still love you more than anything in the world.

And as hard as it is to raise you alone, there are so many things I have learned that I never would have if I hadn’t had to go through the obstacles that brought us here today.

You taught me to live in the moment.

When we moved into the shelter, I thought my world was crumbling around me. You took it in stride, playing and creating friendships and making each moment matter. I learned at that point that no matter what happened, we could always choose where we focus.

You taught me to be resilient.

We had some tough times. You had to be in a children’s emergency shelter while Mommy healed. You had to see things not meant for anyone’s eyes, most especially a small child’s. But you came out stronger, and with a deeper, richer understanding of the world around you.

You taught me to trust myself.

No matter what happened, no matter where we were living, no matter how stressed I was, you trusted me and believed that I could take on the world. Looking into your big, blue eyes helped me realize that I could do it, that I had to do it, for you. And the longer I kept taking care of things, the more capable I became.

You empowered me to do more.

When I was married to your dad, I stayed in the shadows, putting my desires and hopes and dreams on hold so I could be the wife that he wanted and he could shine. But when I broke free of that, I realized that I wanted to teach you to pursue your dreams, I wanted you to be confident that with hard work and skill building, you could accomplish anything you set your mind to. And if I was going to teach you that, I needed to live that myself.

Yes, there are hard moments. Sometimes the lonely is overwhelming. Sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I get hungry and turn into Monster Mom and have to apologize later.

But I am so thankful for the life we share. And as long as I have you, I have everything I need.


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Dammit, I miss you!

A couple rests on a seaside promenade during a rain shower in Kochi

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The doorknob hits my hip as I stand there, still groggy, toothbrush in hand. “Mommy, can you make room for me?”

I scoot over, pulling my robe closer around my body as she walks in and hugs my waist. “Good morning Boogie. Did you sleep okay?”

“Yeah, I slept pretty good.” Her drowsy little voice catches my attention as I realize she is really growing up. I take this morning bathroom routine for granted so often. Her big eyes staring up at me as I dry my hair or put my makeup on. Not just the mornings, but all of it. Her warm, cuddly, over-the-top, excited hugs when I come home from work. Her desire to be right next to me no matter what I am doing.

I remember when Jay was like that. When he wanted to be a part of everything I did and followed me around all day. I don’t remember that last time though. I don’t remember the day that he stopped asking me to make room for him. I don’t remember when the kisses goodbye in the morning stopped and I started getting a quick wave and a signed “I love you”.


I know all too soon, Jaylah will follow in his footsteps and will be too old to want to do this. Sleeping in will become more important than watching me put myself together in the mornings. The excited hugs will become “Hey Mom” with a quick kiss on the cheek. Technology will take the place of her desire to follow me around.

“Mommy, can you make room for me?”

Oh, my dear children, I will always make room for you.

But how often, in everyday life, do I come through on that promise?

How often do they ask, “Mommy, can we play a game?”

“Mommy, if I tell you this, can you not get upset?”

“Mommy, can you snuggle with me?”

“Mommy, did you hear me?”

How often do I choose dishes, or laundry, or my to-do list when they want to play?

How often do I choose to make room in my heart to hear them out, even if I am upset?

How often do I say “I would love to, baby, but I have to…?” instead of a simple “yes”.


How often do I “listen” with distracted ears and eyes, not really paying attention to something they find so important?

Too much. Far too often.

I love to be busy, love to be productive, enjoy feeling like I am making a difference.

And sometimes that means I neglect time for play.

Sometimes my impatience overpowers my compassion.

So often, I want me-time at night and I allow that to determine how long I lay there, or how much talk time they get before bed.

Technology distracts me far more than I care to admit, pushing out room for heartfelt, genuine conversations.


Sometimes I look at all the missed opportunities that I will never get back and my heart breaks.

Times when I could have made him feel important, but I was on the phone.

Times I could have made her feel valued, but I was too busy.

Times I should have answered “Yes, baby, I will make room for you.”

I know that we are all busy. We live in a fast-paced world with to-do lists that are longer than our days, or sometimes even our weeks. Long days can be hard. Messes get repetitive and frustrating. Work and school and volunteering and getting everything done seems so critical. Everything seems urgent.

But one day its over. One day it is the last time they ask for a story before bed. One day is the last time they try to barge in the bathroom so they have a captive audience while I am in the shower. One day, they stop wanting a kiss goodbye or a giant hug hello. One day, games with mom aren’t cool anymore and time spent at friends’ houses looms far more important than time spent at home. One day, they know that sharpie bleeds through paper and they don’t make that mistake again. One day they just grow up.

And you never know what moment will be the last time.

I don’t want the last time they ask me for a story to be a time I turned them down. I don’t want the last Eskimo kiss to be distracted and impersonal. I don’t want them to feel like the things they share with me are less important than my phone or my show on television.

I want these to be moments where I can show a little extra compassion or a little extra love. I want to give them MORE hugs than they request, more listening than they desire.

I want to snuggle them, and hold them, and kiss them more than they could ever want.

I want them to know that they are so important, so valuable, and so loved that there is nothing more urgent,  no busywork more important than what they are going through right now.

I want them to know that I support them. I want them to know I am here for them. Fully alive. Fully present. In this very moment.

My kids are growing up. Jay said the other day that he is “halfway to being an adult.” Jaylah started school this year. It goes by faster than I ever thought possible.

It isn’t long before clubs and sports and friends and homework are the priorities… and I hope in those moments, the moments when I ask “Hey, can we talk for a sec?” that the response is “Yes Mom, I can make room for you.”

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