Mama’s Brag Book

IMG_5176I don’t think it’s a thing anymore but when I was a baby, my mom had a brag book. The words were engraved right on the hard cover with square slots for pictures with white borders around them tucked inside plastic sleeves.

A brag book might sound kind of arrogant these days, but it’s not. From the moment the 2 lines on a pregnancy test turn pink until the birthday celebrating your kid’s legal emancipation and beyond, both of you, separately and together are living a seismic adventure. And if you survive with your sanity reasonably intact and a digital album of the golden-most moments to scroll through on your iphone, call it a big win.

I’m super proud of my kids. I admit it. The ones I birthed and the one God added through the bond of love. They’re in-process, for sure, but then, so am I. And, there’s lots to affirm, especially about these two. So I’m celebrating Robyn and Brennan and their May wedding–2020’s greatest adventure so far.IMG_5005IMG_4637

How did that sweet little freckle faced kid grow up to be so stunningly beautiful?
And his eyes…they’re amazing!

Robyn, she came wired a compelling communicator–speaking, writing, drawing, creating music at the keyboard. It’s all in her head, like a gift ready to be shared at any given moment.
And Brennan, he’s creative, quality minded and resourceful. Those rings they exchanged— he crafted them out of gold he unearthed metal detecting. Then he found a small town craftsman and participated in the process of melting down, casting the gold and setting the stone.


All those candles, the centerpieces on our dinner party table, the kids melted down 100 pounds of soy wax in empty Pringles cans on our kitchen counter one cylinder at a time. The orbs illumined our smiling faces as we recounted the goodness of God in their stories and toasted to their shared future.


And I just gotta say, the bridal bouquet Brennan arranged was pretty sweet too!IMG_4626

That son I love, she’s safe with him. He’s loyal. He’s committed. And he’s been intentional about building a foundation of care and trust, one solid brick at a time.
And the daughter I love, she swims out in the deep end where you can’t touch bottom but you touch the depths of God. And she caught a vision of God’s heart for her man and invited him to join her. Now, she’s his biggest cheerleader. IMG_5194IMG_5229

Their relationship, it hasn’t been a linear path but they are learning that Plan B, C or D isn’t necessarily less than Plan A, it’s just different.

They’re content with the simple gift of everyday companionship.

IMG_5426
They’re taking care of their bodies with life giving routines–Eating home cooked meals. Exercising. Resting.
Before the birds sing their dawn chorus, my kids, both frontline workers, drag themselves out of bed, pour a cup of coffee into their thermal mugs labelled “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and head out to the hospital to offer skilled, compassionate care to sick people.
They’ve checked all the boxes that apply on Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to Financial Peace and are off to a great start with their budget.
Their cozy apartment is becoming a welcoming place of hospitality.
And most importantly, they want their lives to image Jesus so they’re establishing regular rhythms to pursue that goal together.IMG_4893

COVID-19 hi-jacked their original wedding plan but God’s mercies were extravagant on May 13 and by the time our two families stood together on the dunes of Lake Michigan witnessing their vows, we all felt pretty overwhelmed with gratitude for a day that just couldn’t have been any more amazing!IMG_4834IMG_4933

So, here’s to my kids. ……..
I’m proud to be their mama.IMG_4982IMG_4944IMG_5035

COVID Quarantine Mercies

Sometimes mercies arrive in the most unlikely packages.
Usually they come like the mail, every day around 1:00, the familiar squeak of a white truck’s brakes in front of the box,
Or transported by the trademark all-in-brown UPS guy.
Occasionally they appear as a delivery from the florist’s refrigerated van, a pretty bouquet with a card saying “Just Because”.
And then, there’s the guy who pulls up your driveway with no identifiable credentials and drops off something you weren’t expecting and didn’t order and you’re not sure if you want it, especially from a stranger.IMG_9860

Mercies are like that. Unpredictably lavish, everyday reliable and unexpectedly severe.

I’m reclining under the shade of a tree this start of summer afternoon, songbirds substituting for Spotify, breeze gently dancing through the branches keeping me cool, comfy chair too. Everthing’s picture perfect except that I’m swatting at unrelenting bloodsucking mosquitoes who are making a meal out of mine.

And that’s life.

I’ve always told my girls:
People are a mixed bag—beautiful but broken image bearers of their Designer.
Nature is majestic—full of grandeur- and at the same time all creation groans.
Our bodies are miraculously resilient while also incredibly fragile.

So, too the conundrum with mercies. At times, they’re profoundly better than we hoped. Gifts greater than what we dared to ask for. But sometimes, they weren’t on our list and we’d prefer to return them but we can’t. So much of the angst in life is set to rest when we learn to trust the whole spectrum of God’s mysterious graces and this season of COVID-19 pandemonium offers us unprecedented opportunities to practice.
Here’s what that’s looked like in our story the last 14 days of this year of Coronavirus.

I’ve got 3 kids who work in health care, reporting to the hospital day after day. We figured we’d all eventually get infected through them but so far we’ve just gotten free donuts for healthcare workers instead. Thanks God and Krispie Kreme too.

Robyn’s wedding took a direct hit from COVID-19. Plan A turned into Play Y by May 13. And I won’t lie, the lead up was rough—for all of us. But the day unfolded all sunshine. And one of  the bestest fresh mercies of the morning was the family friend who rescued us from our hair emergency. One by one, right there in our living room, she spent hours curling and pinning and braiding and clipping. And just like an assembly line, we stepped out of her chair all beautiful. We rode to the beach in our borrowed Ford RV chariot. The Lake glistening all diamond-like calm and the dunes warm on our bare shoulders and toes as covenant promises were exchanged. Then we celebrated together around a cozy candlelit outdoor table for 13 with pasta and cookie cake, finishing out the festivities with sparklers, confetti poppers and long hugs.

Two mornings later, my phone went ding while I was shopping at the grocery store.
That same sweet friend, texted saying, “My sister got tested for COVID last night and the results came back positive. I’m getting her symptoms and the CDC says it’s likely our family has it. I’ll be tested today. I’m so sorry but I wanted you to know.”

So, I messaged my family with the news.
“Oh wonderful!”
“I wanted to go home this weekend!”
“You mean I can’t volunteer to serve at drive-in church on Sunday?”
“Oh dear!” came the replies.

It wasn’t long until her follow up text confirmed, “I’m positive too.”

The ones who planned on a secluded honeymoon in the mountains went anyway.
Our nurse tested negative then went back to work.
The aspiring author just cleaned her room to make her creative studio more comfortable to write in during the quarantine rest.
And the one who wanted to go home to Chicago, but couldn’t on account of her conscience, got slightly cranky—only very temporarily though. Family time is great, but in moderation. At least that’s her perspective.

We formulated a plan, the four of us sleeping under this roof anyway.
We’ve all been exposed so we’re in this together, baby! 2 whole weeks of self-quarantine.
No Meijer. No Target. No Aldi. No Flowerland.
But, Yes to the trails. Yes to the beach.  And yes to the sunshine.
And the Chicago-girl and I, we made a pact.
Let’s not squander the time together, we agreed. Let’s redeem it. And we have.

May 15:
Caring friends start texting.
Ding. “Take plenty of Vitamin C and D and sit in the sunshine. Also, drink a glass of red wine everyday.”  “Why?” I ask. “There’s something in the grape, and the alcohol is like hand sanitizer for your stomach.” OK….
Ding. “Drink a lot of hot and orange juice.”
Another Ding. “Gargle and hot tea.”
Is there a pattern here?….

May 16:
Today’s best quotables:
“If I breathe on Teddy maybe he’ll get COVID and then I can get back at him for biting me last week.” (Lily)
“Life is really wow!” (Hope)

May 17:
Lily tested negative. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If we’re going to be stuck here for 2 weeks, we’d kind of like to get it over with and come out the other side with antibodies.

May 18: Got up at 10:30 today. That’s a 30 minute gain from yesterday. I’ve decided I’m going to give myself 1 full week to be entirely useless after the wedding and if I’m symptom free after that, I’m going to kick myself in the butt and get productive again.

May 19:
Daily fruit smoothie blended in the trusty Vitamix and doused in whip cream for everybody in the fam. Check.
2 mile jog. Check.
Switch out winter and summer clothes. Check.
I went to bed before midnight. Shocker.

May 20:
Second shower I’ve taken since the wedding.
Played Harry Potter Clue. Love is the only explanation.
Practiced a dance tutorial on YouTube for exercise.
Stayed up too late binge watching Netflix, heard a funny noise coming from the basement. I discovered a broken water line flooding the storage room. Caught it fast and an hour later, we’d cleaned up the mess and gone to bed. Murphy’s law mixed with fresh mercy. Isn’t that how life goes?

May 21:
My decks looks like a tulip festival. And when I peek through its floorboards I see a robin’s nest carefully constructed, strategically tucked under the wooden supports and housing 4 little blue eggs. Mama robin hovers nearby to protect her babies, hoping they’ll grow into healthy, autonomous birds. I get that.

May 22:
Watering and weeding. Every single day.
I cleaned out the room of the one who’s not coming back to it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go over it. Gotta go through it. And it’s hard….
Ruminating on the words of a new book I’m reading: “Your child has caused you pain as well, but as the parent, you do not get the freedom to bleed all over your child. You have real grief but your child is not the recipient of your grief.”  Ouch, that hurts! I’ve hemorrhaged all over my kids.

May 23:
Taking on the paperwork pile.
Started making my next T-shirt quilt.
Cancellations, refunds. No vacation to Prince Edward Island and the Lake of Shining Waters or Green Gables. Have I said it before? This year ranks low on my favorites list.
But, the kids buy me a 2 week subscription of Hello Fresh for dinner. Oh happy day!

May 24:
A quick trip to the lakeshore with Ang. First stop, the cemetery. Time for my annual meet and greet with mom and dad. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I didn’t have to talk to a tombstone. Next stop, the beach. The lapping waves lullaby me  and I nap in the sunshine. It’s fun to be together.
Tailgating picnic for 5 at Kuyper College on the big hill. Peace. Joy.
Then, the honeymooners return with stories of their adventures.

 

May 25:
Church in our oversized chair. Angela and I share her consecrated bread.
Sorting through memories–purging, organizing, saving. This time she relinquished her dowry—a seashell collection- the brunt of our family joke about the  junk she’ll bring into a marriage someday.
Hot day. Maranatha at sunset—climbed to the prayer tower. Plenty to pray about. Not a prettier place to meet with Jesus.


The tear ducts overflowing tonight. Can’t seem to turn the faucet off. So much transition.

May 26:
Not a morning person. Tried to jog first thing. Another hot day. Fail. 1.2 miles and I quit. Well, actually I collapsed.
More sorting. This time it’s school books. 2 categories: 1) Save for the grandkids. 2) Don’t save for the grandkids.


Holiday dinner. All the kids around the table. Dragged up an old family joke from the archives. “What do we call a fairy who doesn’t take a bath?” –“A stinkerbell.” I really, really miss those days!
Watched Emma (2020) though I never could stay focused on a Jane Austen flick. Their lives are so boring.

May 27:
Tomorrow we get out of jail.
I’m starting to think about life post-quarantine.
Finding our new normal, just the 3 of us.
Dumping a colossal donation off at Goodwill.
Crossing the border into Indiana to go to Kohl’s later this week.
And now, because it’s time, Angela, she’ll load up her car, wave out the sunroof and go “Zoooom”….

These days, the ones God sovereignly surprised me with, they’ve actually been a treasure.
He protected our bodies from illness.
He provided a temporary diversion, a few weeks to rest and recharge before I face off the reality of yet another empty bedroom with all of its nostalgia.
And, He posited Angela and I in a training plan to strengthening our relational muscles through repetitions of love, respect and understanding and it turned out to be a great workout.
We stewarded our time responsibly.
We took a lot of walks.
We practiced being kind.
We gave each other space.
We listened to music. Arabic. Gaelic. German. Pop. Even CCM.
We Facetimed friends across the ocean and across town.
We watched movies– though my suggestions are always too sad, she says.
We talked about things that matter in the great big cosmos and in each of our own little worlds.
We cooked curry and baked scones and ate lots of homemade ice cream. She drank about a half dozen gallons of milk but neither of us imbibed any wine.
We went to the beach and watched the sunset together there too.
Lots of great memories to carry into a fresh, new summer. So many mercies.IMG_9644

And so, quarantine life turned into one of my favorite parts of this otherwise not-favorite year. God’s Plan B for the weeks post-wedding, turned out to be better than my plan A.
And I just feel really, really grateful.

On Sandwiches, Paper Cranes and Floatation Devices

Always start and end with gratitude.
That’s the bread in life’s best sandwich.

So, I’m grateful because
None of my kids live overseas this spring, stuck halfway around the world with second rate medical care.
Six weeks ago, I was double dosing on Naproxen to manage shoulder pain and now I’m raking my yard.
Most of my tribe is still getting their paychecks.
An early spring’s given me some elbow room outdoors during Michigan’s extended stay-at-home orders.
There’s an abundance of left over Russell Stover Easter candy available at Walgreens 50% off.
And, we have plenty of toilet paper!

But, truth is, I’m not loving this sandwich.
The stuff in the middle, it doesn’t taste very good!
And so far, this year gets a failing grade on my favorites list.
Not because of a single catastrophic event.
It’s aches and pains,
Conflict,
Disappointments,
Transitions,
And so many losses…

Which brings me to this very moment.
She’s stripped most of the decorations off the wall—the pressed leaves and calligraphy quotes, the string of Christmas lights that drapes around her window, the banner with her name on the door. The bed’s moving over to her new home tomorrow.
This space, it’s been a safe haven for my girl.
A sanctuary.

I was the one who told her, “You’re ready to fly.” And she is.
But her room feels naked with just the paper cranes, wing spans spread, hanging off fishing line from her ceiling.
And my grief’s exposed.
I’m crouched in the corner ugly-crying, wondering what happened to all that Kleenex my husband stockpiled for the pandemic.

2014 was my first launch.
And nothing prepared me for that kind of hard!
I dropped my kid off at college and drove 900 miles due South.
It felt like death though somehow, I survived.
We figured out how to live as 5 instead of 6.
And now, we’re transitioning to 4.
And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be 3.

For almost 22 years I’ve called this one to dinner every single night.
And I’m wearing at least 15 pounds worth of her famous chocolate chip cookies on my derriere.
Over these two plus decades, I’ve been a student of her expressions and moods.
I know all her favorite treats and what’s likely to bring a smile on a bad day.
I’ve prayed with her over every test.
I’ve watched her performances, applauded her accomplishments.
We’ve worked alongside each other and we’ve played together too.
I’ve hugged her and disciplined her.
Lectured and challenged her.
It’s been a long time since I laid next to her telling bedtime stories and singing lullabies as she drifted off to dreamland but it’s been comforting to know we’re sleeping under the safe roof anyway.

So, I told her today, “Try to remember the beautiful stuff most.”
I wish it was all beautiful!
Every moment of these approximately 8000 days.
But, it’s not.

I’m not a perfect parent. And her dad isn’t either.
She’s not a perfect kid. And neither are her sisters.

That reality tends to spiral me  into would-a, should-a, could-a…real fast.
To give myself a few hard swats with a 5 gallon paint stick.
And that’s the messy middle of my unappetizing sandwich.

But the bread of gratitude sustains me.
And so I intentionally recount the faithfulness of God in this kid’s story.
Last year about now, she had 50 bucks in the bank and her trusty Honda CRV named Winston. She graduated with her BSN a year early.
Then, she passed her NCLEX on her first try and God provided a full-time hospital nursing position.
She continued to live at home opting for free room and board, bedtime hugs included, so she could stockpile her savings.
And now, she bought her first home—a condo- just 11 minutes from the mama who’s crying on her bedroom floor tonight.fullsizeoutput_baab

The same loving Heavenly Father who’s written this chapter of her story, can He not be entrusted with the next one too?
And how about mine?

It sounds cliché but it’s not.
In this sink or swim world, the rhythm of gratitude, rehearsing His fresh mercies, acknowledging His faithfulness, that’s the floatation device that keeps me from drowning.

I pick up my hardcover copy of the Book, the one my Mama and Daddy gave me before I packed up my things and left an empty pink upstairs bedroom behind.
Here’s what it says:
He’s counting my tears and putting them in his bottle.
And my bottle, it matters to him.
He considers it tenderly.
It represents the love and investment I’ve made in my daughter’s life and He delights in the broken beautiful mama I’ve been to her.
He chose me for the task and celebrates that I’ve been faithful.
And he sympathizes with the loss I feel as she leaves our humble abode.
Those tears, He’ll use them to water the seeds of change and growth that are yet to be written into both of our stories.

Right outside the window where the paper cranes hang off the fishing wire, I planted a bunch of lily bulbs last Indian summer when mama’s intuition whispered the secret.
In time, they’ll bloom into an intoxicating mixture of fragrance and beauty.
I can’t see them yet.
They’re buried under the weight of the dirt. But what I have sown, He will make grow.
And with that confidence, I hope and wait with anticipation.IMG_9382

On Being Brave

We had so much fun apartment shopping together.
Fueled for our search with a piece of coconut cream pie from Sweetilicious, what could go wrong?Version 2

It was just like an episode out of house hunters.
First we looked at the one under budget. It was a quick 7 minute drive from work and less from her favorite library but farthest from our house and no laundry machines in the apartment.
Next came the one that felt super safe, right on budget with a garage but no pets allowed.
The last one was an old church renovated into apartments. Stained glass windows reflected prismatic rainbows onto the bedroom walls. The place was pristine but the price was steep.

First, she eliminated the church. It was perfect, but not financially realistic.
Then she applied to the other two. Thirty minutes later, her email inbox dinged and she had a lease ready to be signed for apartment number 1. At 25 Mbps, we were both shocked into reality.

This is really gonna happen!
Lily’s moving out.

I’m the one who spoke it first. “You’re ready for your own place.”
I don’t want it to be true but it is.
Thing is, I’m already losing one in May. Well, actually two, because Brennan’s been family for a long time now. I’ve been gearing up for that transition for months but, Lily, too?439BB329-7D8B-4CE7-9352-2492B796D7C7

After the email arrived, my tear ducts went leaky.
It’s all normal.
It’s healthy.
It’s even good.
But it’s just so dang hard.

It feels like I’m living that picture book, Let Me Hold You a Little Longer.Image 2-29-20 at 3.09 AM

“Long ago you came to me;
a miracle of firsts;
First smiles and teeth and baby steps,
a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away
and leave to me your past,
And I will be left thinking of
a lifetime of your lasts.”

Some things, I didn’t realize were “lasts” when I was living them.
Others have been easier to anticipate.

I miss those coffee dates at Starbucks,
Weekly beach trips,
Lying sandwiched in a twin bed between 2 little princesses telling stories, singing lullabies and saying bedtime prayers together.
The smell of their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies,
The sound of Little House on the Prairie audiobooks,
And errand buddies riding shotgun.

Times are a-changin’
We’re like the family going on a bear hunt.
We can’t go over it .
Can’t go under it.
Just gotta go through it. (We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Rosen/Oxbury)Image 2-29-20 at 3.02 AM
I want us all to end up snuggled together in an enormous bed protected from all the bears like they do in the story, but that’s not how our adventure is going to end.
And so, I’m trying to be brave.
And so are they.

They’ll both be homesick when they leave, even if they don’t admit it; but in time, they’ll make their new place a home.
And they’ll establish fresh daily rhythms– just like their big sister did.

I’m wondering, will I?
Will home feel like home with 2 more empty bedrooms?
Will I ever adjust to dinner for 3?

I’m reminding myself that I’ve done this gig before and survived… so that makes me one for one statistically.
I’m excited for some intentional mama-daughter time with my baby and it’s long overdue.
And I’ve got to admit, I’m looking forward to finally having a clean bathroom. Just saying…

There it is, a jumpstart on my gratitude list.
Ecclesiastes says there’s a season for everything and God makes everything beautiful in its time.

It won’t be long till the ground thaws and 600+ tulip, daffodil and hyancith bulbs peek out of the garden to say hello. If the deer don’t eat them for dinner, they’ll bloom beautiful as a backdrop on the bride and groom at our celebratory feast in the yard.
IMG_2341
Fifty three winters, springs, summers and autumns… and fresh, new mercies in every single season of my story.
This one will be no exception.
Thanks be to God.

Mid-Winter Blues and Grays

Here’s what I know this wind whipping, snow dancing winter night. When pain stops you in your tracks and takes away your productivity, it can make you feel panicky.
I felt the nagging ache in my left shoulder a few months ago and ignored it. It amped up its annoyance the more I worked out, but what’s a girl to do when her daughter’s wedding is 4 months away and some of that flab around the midsection, it’s just gotta go.
Then, I woke up one morning and thought I was delivering a baby in my left shoulder. Seriously.
Try as I might with wedges and pain killers and ice packs and physical therapy, I just can’t make it stop.

I find myself threat forecasting again….
What if I can’t get on top of this before Spring?
How will I pull off all the preparations for Robyn’s dream wedding reception in our back yard?

And honestly, I don’t have until spring to be derailed.
More pressing questions include, how am I going to fix dinner tonight?
And do dishes?
And laundry?
And vacuum my floors?
Who’s going to drive my kid everywhere?
And how exactly do I wash my hair?

Usually, pain slinks around illusively and you wonder if it’ll be like the house guest who never leaves. But then again, here I am at 53 years old and every single physical issue I’ve struggled with eventually righted itself, so the odds are in my favor as is God’s supreme human anatomical design.

My counselor told me how he got the flu over New Years and was flat in bed for 10 days. He’d made other plans, a long to-do list with some days off work. He said he was grateful for his sickness. God knew he needed to rest and his Father chose what that rest should look like.
I needed to hear that story because it helps me to center in the storm of my own malaise.
What if this infirmity is my invitation to just walk with God more open handedly?
To rely on others to help me because I need to even if I don’t want to.
Maybe, it’s time to be reminded of how dependent I actually am on my Father’s help and presence to get me through each day.
To reconnect with Him in new ways.
Maybe I don’t get to know anything about anything.
Maybe I just need a reset—physically and spiritually.

It’s 6 weeks into a new year.
Mine started with a vacation. Sunshine. Hiking. Some drama-free moments I desperately needed but honestly, my daughter and I, we rubbed. It’s mostly growing pains but it still a bummer.IMG_8408

Then I came home and started a diet and exercise program because those mother of the bride photos, they go in the archives and that’s a lot of pressure.

One of my best buds flew up to visit me. She lives down south so I told her, “No need to bring boots or gloves or a coat or hats. You can wear mine. And for that matter, if you really want to travel light, you can borrow my bras and underwear too.” She’s that kind of friend. We spent almost 4 days together talking fast because there are more words than there is time. After we finished our Leslie Sansone total body fitness walking workout, she said she needed to send a picture of a snow angel to her baby girl and we were hot and sweaty so we opted for a pretty creative cool down routine. I kid you not. Two fifty- something women, mothers of 13 to be exact, crafted a couple of pretty sweet snow angels in our workout shorts and all I can say is, if you can, find yourself that kind of friend.IMG_8712

Wedding planning is down to double digits and even though the guest list is small, you still have to tick off the same checklist and work through the same negotiations to get the job done. And that’s been– an adventure…..IMG_0762

I started a new volunteer job for a ministry I believe in and it’s exciting to be actively supporting its purposes. I love my relationships with refugees and consider it a privilege to support them through their immigration process. I’m inspired by the young adult women in our church that I get to mentor. And, I even help out in my baby’s homeschool co-op. My husband, he’s always resourced me to serve generously and I’m super grateful.

So, here I am staring down Valentine’s Day convalescing between my bed and my chair. In “the good old days”, we did this holiday big, with super fun family traditions we called Family Love Days. We’d pick names out of a hat for secret admirers and lavish each other with love on the sly until our big reveal on Valentine’s Day. We’d celebrate God’s lavish affection for us with friends parties and heart shaped cookies and cupcakes.


I miss all that.
So very much.
Love notes days are long gone.
Most days, I’m not even sure if my family likes me.
It’s an ache, the emotional equivalent of that uncomfortable rub in my shoulder except for when it flares to a frowny face with tears on the pain scale and you wonder if it’s going to improve or how you’ll make it through.
But somehow you will and you do.Image 2-16-20 at 11.12 PM

There’ve been a lot of gray days this winter. I can hear it in these words.
Need me some Vitamin D, big time!
And the Truth.
That heavy, old, hard cover, Thompson Chain Reference Bible my mom and dad gave me when I was a teenager,
and my Bible apps,
and daily prayer liturgies,
the sermons,
my hymns and anthems playlist on Spotify,
prayer walks
and a faithful friend or two who listen to all my junk.
All of it reminds me of the Truth.
Everything God says and does is loving and good and everything He allows in my life holds redemptive potential.
Yeah, I’m feeling the burn of a Michigan winter—physically, emotionally and spiritually.
But it’s a good burn. Nowhere else I’d rather be.
And, Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring so that’s a mercy to anticipate.
You know,  just being my Daddy’s kid, resting in His strong and tender arms, that’s todays fresh mercy.
And it’s enough.20160128_165151

This Is Us This Thanksgiving

IMG_6472Word on the street said I’d like NBC’s “This is Us”.
Season 1 is already buried 6 feet under the newest episodes but I’m a latecomer to all things television land. Seriously, we haven’t had TV channels at our house—ever- so if I watch something, it’s either got to be Amazon prime free, a DVD from the library or an occasional splurge on Redbox.

My kid thought I’d really connect with the relational grit of the show and my “almost kid” said his mom watched it so when clocks turned back an hour making bedtime feel like immediately after dinner, my winter hygge found the perfect vice.

I gotta be honest. So far, I have a love-hate relationship with the show and I’m only halfway through the first season. I feel myself getting attached to the characters even though it bothers me that the vibe feels kind of like a soap opera at night. Me, I have a boatload of baggage connected with daytime soaps.

When I was growing up, my mom’s TV viewing preferences can only be described as super selective.
No murder mysteries.
No violence or police drama.
Definitely no westerns.
And absolutely no night time romance dramas that might get racy.
The weird thing is that she rarely missed an episode of All My Children and General Hospital and I watched right alongside her. She’d jump up out of her comfy chair like a hot potato to stand in front of the television set during sex scenes, which happened about every 15 minutes. Honestly, now that I’m an adult, I wonder how anybody has as much time for sex in real life as the main characters in daytime television always seemed to have. Anyway, I guess my mom thought that if she told me it was wrong, according to the Bible, to have sex outside of marriage and gave me a visual cue that sex is bad by covering up the TV, she’d done her due diligence. Thing is, I must have seen hundreds if not thousands of the first few tantalizing seconds of a bedroom scene or just the tail end of a cuddling couple after their explosion of irresistible passion, people using each other to get a quick fix as modus operendi. It impacted my perceptions about what sex must be like and how it must feel. Negatively. And it wasn’t just the sex part of soaps that left an impression, the whole relational dynamic between characters can only be characterized at best as capital D dysfunctional. The communication strategies for dealing with conflict were a)contrived b)unrealistic and c)not healthy . Sadly, they provided a poor model of relating to my younger self.

So, when I say that some things about This is Us trigger my soap opera memories, that’s the back story explaining the “hate” part.

What I love about This is Us isn’t limited to the endearing characters I’ve started attaching to,  it’s the messy family story, the sincere but broken love between them, that draws me in. I really resonate with it.

Here’s the synopsis of the last couple of episodes I’ve watched. The family gathers from the four winds to celebrate Thanksgiving together, ready to repeat all of their unique, time-honored traditions. But when a bratty girlfriend accompanies an insecure adult son, a resented step father replaces a deceased dad, a long-lost, biological father with terminal cancer becomes a plus one next to the adopted kid and the obese grown up daughter announces her plans for bariatric surgery, things get, well, complicated… And here’s the most complex plot twist. Turns out that the matriarch of the story, the adoptive mom, Rebecca, actually knew who and where her son’s biological father was these past 36 years but withheld that information from him. And that is the spark that ignites a relational explosion around the Pearson family Thanksgiving dinner table.

At that moment in the show, it’s easy to judge the mom for dodging and hiding this life altering information from her curious child. But when you replay the flashbacks to her kids growing up years and take a few relaxing, deep breaths, I expect you’d also be able to spot a mama who offered her most lavish love, faithfully, over a lifetime to the 3 kids she raised, one poopy diaper, sack lunch, football game, dinner prep and laundry load at a time. You might observe a mama who proactively sought to resource each of her children according to their giftedness. You’d probably notice that she put her own aspirations on hold for the sake of nurturing her kids dreams. Maybe you’d detect how skillfully she balanced firm and gentle when navigating petty sibling squabbles and other constant drama. You might perceive her humility and teachable posture regarding raising a kid who’s race was different than hers. And you’d definitely see a woman who laughed even when she felt like crying.  A woman who offered her kids a healthy model of what it looks like for 2 married people to be on each other’s team.
That same mama, she also got afraid of losing what she loves most. Every mama’s been there. Mama love puts you right in the eye of fear’s storm and fear takes you places you don’t want to go and rarely end well. And at this point in the story, mama Rebecca finds her head on the relational chopping block as a result of responding out of fear.

It’s almost Thanksgiving in real.
This year, our family, we’ll all be together again, plus the one who’s soon to officially join the clan and the people we choose to call family even though technically, they aren’t.fullsizeoutput_b0f5

And we’ve got our own time honored traditions starting with the annual gratitude walk, including family pictures wearing our matching screen printed shirts. Then there’s a grateful jar on the coffee table, getting filled up with scribbled on pieces of paper listing random everyday blessings. We’ll read through them at our feast. We’ll eat Webster favorites like sweet potato soufflé, homemade stuffing and pecan pie with fancy folded cloth napkins followed by games, puzzles or a cozy fire and a family-friendly movie whose preview features our very own homemade music video, a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness to us since this time last year.

IMG_4837 2I wait for this day all year long because what could possibly be better that intentionally celebrating another year worth of fresh mercies while dining with the ones that God’s written into our story. When our better selves show up at the table, it’s a delight to watch the animated conversations, the dramatic facial expressions, to hear the sound of people talking over each other using lots and lots of words, telling stories, asking questions, hearing answers, all of it spilling out with a smattering of political ideology, some random theological musings and even a few corny puns.

Thing is, just like with the Pearsons, we’ll each bring our own personal and relational baggage to our table too.
Our insecurities and fears,
The roles we play with each other on autopilot,
Some misperceptions about the motives of the person sitting next to us,
A weird mixture of pride and shame,
And a few self-justified grudges for good measure.

Nobody feels how high the stakes are like mamas do. They’re profoundly aware that their whole, idyllic plan to seize the day can relationally unravel with a single tone, a condescending smirk, a particular expression. You know, the communication triggers everyone is hyper-attuned for, the ones that prompt some people to self-protectively shut down their hearts and provoke others to defensively attack. And unless God shows up at Thanksgiving, things’ll go south in a heartbeat.

The good news is that He will. The One who assigned us our families knew just who we needed to learn about love and commitment and forgiveness with and He’s going to be right there at our table cheering each of us on, challenging us to bring our honest self to dinner with humility, curiosity and a sincere desire to understand each other better.

So, mamas, resist fear because fear sabotages the impact of our best love.
Be realistic. Savor the moments and don’t expect them all to be picture perfect.
Choose to embrace your family’s unique brand of in-process, broken-beautiful.fullsizeoutput_7cff

And if your Thanksgiving holiday derails,
Thank God anyway because at least you a have a family to struggle with.
Lean hard on Jesus who extends compassion for your disappointment and a shoulder for you to cry on.
And eventually, pull yourself back up by the bootstraps and commit to try again next year.

Because, here’s the thing.
Family is the learning laboratory for incubating grace. And family loyalty never expires. And family never gives up on each other. Ever.
And besides that, tomorrow is a new day to start compiling new lists and taking new pictures and making new memories because in a blink of an eye, next year’s Thanksgiving will be the feature page on our calendars, another year of mercies fresh and new each morning.
Abundant.
Lavish.
Generous.
And always enough.

The Confusing Journey of Family Love

*this post originally published on foreverymom on September 12, 2019

We were sitting in the chapel pew at the New Student Dedication Service when the college president spoke these words, “Parents”, followed by a pregnant pause, “today is a game changer.” And that’s when I started to cry.
I didn’t intend to.
My kid is a commuter, still coming home to her cozy bed every night. It’s just that the words he said were so shockingly true. I didn’t know it when I waved goodbye and drove away the first time, but now I do. Nothing’s ever been the same since.

We all do the best we can post-gamer changer day. My friends, the ones who launched their firsts just a few weeks ago, they’ve each wandered into the maze of the unknown with their own brands of courage.
I keep telling them that it’s OK to grieve…. and it is.
I assure them they’re going to make it through this…. and they will.
I say that they have sweet surprises to anticipate in the next chapter…. and they do.
I remind them that they have a future and a hope…. and it’s the truth.

But if I’m dead honest, this whole deal of navigating relationships with young adult children is hard. Dog hard.
It’s also painful, so stock up on band-aids because you’re going to get some owies.
And it’s super confusing too…
For everybody.

It’s confusing for young adult children who are trying to figure out their unique identity apart from their family.
It’s complicated to sort through the effects of their parents’ sincere but imperfect love.
And it’s disconcerting as they compare their family of origin to all the seemingly shiny, new relationships they establish.

It’s confusing for parents too…
It’s contradictory how we still pay bills but can’t secure information about charges due to privacy laws.
It’s baffling how we can’t imagine what it’s like to not miss our kid, to turn totally nostalgic every time we walk past the Meijer penny pony or cook their favorite meal then eat it with their seat at the table empty, and they don’t miss us back.
It’s jarring to have our merits as parents judged primarily by our perceived mistakes instead of our efforts, investments and sacrifices.
And most perplexing of all, is our son or daughter’s definition of dialogue. It’s important to them to feel heard and validated as they share their perspectives on their evolving convictions but as soon as we say anything they don’t want to hear, the conversation is derailed.

Growing Pains….
It’s right there, in the name…..
For them.
For us.
For me.

If I tell my friends the whole truth, I’d say I’m not sure you ever get over that severing from the detachment that feels like a never-ending second childbirth. If you do, I’m not there yet.
Just like them, I’m still leaning hard into the Father’s love to give definition to my worth, to give hope to my future, to stamp validation on my past and to reorient my calling to whatever He has for me next. And so, fellow-mama, all I know to do is the same thing I did yesterday, the same thing I will do tomorrow morning when my alarm starts playing Steffany Gretzinger’s Morning Song.
Get up.
Embrace His fresh mercies for a new day. Even the severe ones.
And say thank you, because all good gifts, past, present and future, come from the gracious hand of our loving Father who can be entrusted with all of this confusion.

On Being 52

It felt like turning a corner onto a dark, unmarked alley. Really, that’s how it was turning 50. But I had no choice. The sun just keeps circling the earth and it wouldn’t stop for me. That was 3 years ago. A few weeks ago, I flipped the page onto chapter 53 and chapter 52 turned out to be one of my favorites. As I’ve corralled the courage to seize the days, the days have invited me into the most delightful adventures.
My daughter, Angela, affixes pictures, postcards and other paraphernalia up in her room with an artsy flair, calling it her wall of happiness.
Mine’s a cyber-wall of gratitude instead, attached to year 52.
Here’s a sneak peek.

1) It started with that cute little wisteria plant Robyn’s boyfriend, Brennan, grew from a cutting and gifted me with these words “Happy Birthday, Hope”. A foreshadowing of a year of growth.
2) Our family vacation at the little red cottage on the lake with a jet ski. One of my favorite vacations in the history of ever.fullsizeoutput_90d9
3) Flying back to Dallas with Lily . Sometimes we’ll do just about anything to put another hug around a person’s neck when we know it might be our last.


4) ) My stash of cheap but somewhat trendy reading glasses. If I’ve got to be blind, might as well do it in style.
5) An international explore with Angela. Road tripping it to Canada, co-writing a blog post and getting lost in Algonquin National Park.IMG_1027
6) As is our family tradition on graduation year, I sewed Robyn’s t-shirt quilt and now she’s covered with love.IMG_7056
7) My California coast bucket list check off with Brian. A cooper mini convertible and 50 miles of hiking to commemorate 30 years of journeying alongside each other through life.


8) The new, modern-day Little Women. Every toxin in my body got wept out during that movie. The Christmas dinner scene. That is my family in our finest hour.
9) Safety for Robyn when she was rear ended. It was just a car and cars can be replaced.
10) A new AWD vehicle. No more parking at the bottom of the driveway all winter.
11) Hiking in Colorado with Starla. 4 days of Rocky Mountain highs and a sacred search for the best hot chocolate.


12) Connectivity with Angela while she was in Africa. My love runs deep for Whatsapp, Facetime, Instagram and Find Friends.


13) New flooring and other renovations, thanks to Brian. Hello vinyl plank, Goodbye mangy carpet.IMG_5691
14) Extras around the dinner table. I love setting one more place and 2 or 3 are even better.
15) Reconnecting with Seth. Sometimes God wraps up His gifts in the most unlikely packages–slippery roads, a car accident, a taco dinner, a warm cozy bed and an extra vehicle.
16) Sleeping at Last Enneagram Songs and Podcasts. Ryan O’Neal, he’s a musical genius and an all around great dude. Loved listening with Lily.
17) God’s provision of counselors and mentors and doctors for all of our issues. And Lord knows, we’ve got issues….
18) Passion DC and Senior Sneak in the Smokies. So honored to mentor this next generation of young adults.IMG_3382
19) Growing things simply to enjoy their beauty.


20) Josh Harris’ documentary, “I survived I kissed dating goodbye”. The family dialogue that resulted was important.
21) Graci’s surprise 18thbirthday party. Love celebrating her life.
And all these teenagers, they’re super cool and they keep me young.


22) Homemade corn sacks kept everybody comfy warm. Brennan and Robyn’s cottage industry happened here on the little old Kenmore sewing machine.
23) Jogging 5K on the Cornerstone University track. Didn’t know if I had it in me but I do.
24) My people, the ones who just keep taking another lap with me, one year after another. Don’t know where I’d be without them.
25) Hole in my Heart Podcasts. Matt and Laurie and Steve, their gospel centered approach to sexuality has informed my ignorance on all things LGTBQ. 5 star recommendation.
26) Coffee Dates. Lavender earl grey tea lattes with this one are my favorite.IMG_3631
27) Wednesday night Happy Hour with these lovelies. Non-alcoholic Rose’ and real life Q and A at it’s finest.IMG_1485
28) Good Reads: 1) Girl Wash your Face by Rachel Hollis, 2) You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, 3) A War of Loves by David Bennett  4) Christians, Muslims and Jesus by Carl Medearis 5) Secrets of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
29) A normal mammogram. Celebrating another year I didn’t have to fight that monster.
30) An unremarkable routine colonoscopy too.
31) Spring break destination Tennessee. That 80’s pop karaoke session on Liz’s screen porch was unforgettable.IMG_4487
32) Omar’s birth. Proud Auntie, that’s me.IMG_4264
33) A best-of Dallas family road warrior weekend. Celebrating all our favorite people and places in 64 hours.


34) PCPC hymn sing in recognition of Lynda Fray’s ministry to families for God’s glory through children’s choirs. I’m pretty sure heaven sounds like that did.


35) Best performance of Les Miserables ever. Robyn and Brennan, WOW!


36) Starla’s going to be in Koinonia Players drama team next year. Sometimes you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do and if it means camping out at 5:00 a.m. to get a spot in class.  well, so be it.
37) God’s angels protecting Brennan. That fall, it could have been so much worse than a couple of fractured vertebrae.
38) Lily’s college graduation. So proud and amazed at what she has done and what she has become.IMG_5071
39) Robyn’s high school graduation. When you’re a homeschooling mom, their celebration is yours too.IMG_3099
40) Attending Potter’s House High School graduation of my Syrian friends. Rarely have I seen such unity and diversity in the name of Christ.IMG_5360
41) My personal Style, Color and Shape consultation, thanks to my daughters, because a girl needs all the help she can get.
42) Lily’s NCLEX licensing test passed. She’s “officially” a nurse.
43) Robyn’s phlebotomy job. She’s wanted to poke people ever since “that really nice lady” at Spectrum kept poking her, a bunch of years ago and look what God did–provided full time, paid, on the job training all summer long.
44) Brennan’s job in surgical support services. This job, it’s legit.
45) Weekly beach trips all summer long. Continuing the tradition.


46) My Michigan address. All year long…


47) My blog article published on ForEveryMom. Sharing the mama love.
48) Our first family camping trip in 16 years. Tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, hammocks, s’mores and an overnight thunderstorm. We did it all!


49) Lily’s nursing job at Spectrum Blodgett. A journey of prayer and perseverance has taken her to this place to serve on this healing team.
50) Angela safely returned from Africa. From 4875 to 154 miles away, she’s got an awesome new apartment, an amazing new roommate and an exciting new job.


51) My Rockford Cheese Shop discovery. How did I live before Stilton Mango Ginger cheese?


52) And a whole lot of long prayer walks…. (to the tune of And a Partridge in a Pear Tree).

So many mercies, one day after another, enough to carry me all away around the sun to 53. Thanks be to God!

To The Mama Who’s Launching Her First

*this post originally published on foreverymom.com, August 22, 2019.mg_9952I’m starting to see the Facebook posts. Parents sending kids off to college.
Helping them decorate their dorm room.
Reflecting on how quickly 18 years went.
They all read something like this: “I’m going to miss you like crazy but I’m so excited and hopeful for your future.” And that is the paradox. Both statements are completely true.

Two of my people are launching their first. One characterizes this year as “the dark night of the soul”. Another developed an ulcer over the summer. For the mamas and daddies who are eternal optimists by temperment or naturally compartmentalize emotions, we celebrate with you that this transition doesn’t feel like suffering. Really, we do. But for all the rest of us mommies, this is a gut wrenching, nauseating experience. And we think we’re the only one who’s ever felt this emotionally flattened. And we tend to condemn ourselves because we can’t seem to pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off and be OK yesterday. Here’s the thing, mama. I want you to know that you are not alone in this. I’m proof positive that there is a long and formidable cloud of witnesses who have journeyed this road before you and survived. Thrived even. And we are cheering you on.

I know, you’re looking at the calendar, counting down the days. Wondering how you’ll make it through….
Remember when you were nine months pregnant with that same kid? You didn’t know how you’d survive childbirth either, but you also knew there was no choice but to pull down your big girl panties and somehow deliver a baby. And you did.
You weren’t sure how you’d live with a little person 24/7, but you did.
And now that little person’s turned big and you’re not sure how you’ll live in the daily without them either, but you will.

Remember that classic story about the family who goes on a bear hunt. I know it by heart and so do you.  “Going on a bear hunt, Going to catch a big one, What a beautiful day! We’re not scared. Uh-oh, grass… a river… mud… a forest… a snowstorm… You can’t go under it. You can’t go over it. You’ve got to go through it.”And that is the cold hard reality about launching our children: There is no other way than through it.

Here are some things that have helped me on my journey. Maybe they’ll help you too:
1) Clean like a crazy woman after they leave. (I’m talking deep clean, spring clean, whole house reorganization.)
2) Exercise (when you can get yourself out of bed).
3) Once you get your appetite back, don’t indulge the empty space in your life with food. You’ll feel worse when you start packing on the pounds.
4) Share your tears. Unload them on a good friend. And don’t waste your emotional energy on self-condemnation for grieving your loss. Your Father, He’s collecting them in his bottle, delighting in a sweet offering of deep love.
5) Invest in your relationships with your other kiddos in intentional ways.DSCF6843
6) Develop a previously untried spiritual rhythm or discipline that connects you daily with God and PRAY at all times, for all your people, about everything, and always start with “Thank You”  because gratitude refocuses your attention from your struggle to His faithfulness.

And here’s a bonus tidbit of advice. If you’re a natural born melancholy, imbibe on your “Mom Music” Spotify playlist with extreme moderation.

Truth. That moment you give your last hug and drive away or wave as they do, it will indelibly etch itself on your soul, leaving you wondering if even dementia could take it away.
It’s never the same after that. Autonomy tends to have a voracious appetite.
But in time, you will find a new normal and it will be sweet.
You can walk this journey. You can.
Hold tightly to the hand of God and see the surprising new places He takes you. Let Him carry you through the treacherous terrain and you will experience new facets of His tender strength. God’s fresh mercies won’t leave when your kid walks out the door. They’re still surprising and new and enough– abundant even, for this day and all the days yet to be written in your story.

Bad Advice for Parents with Teenage Daughters

What a difference a day can make.
Yesterday it was the inspiring strawberry patch mamas.
Today, the beer-drinking, trash-talking, beach dad.

Lake levels are up 2+ feet this year so the beach is crowded. We stake out our little postage stamp parcel and set down our blanket and beach chair. It’s not just the rhythm of the waves and the squawking of the seagulls, I’m hearing the conversations around me in stereo too.

Right behind us, there’s a nice little family. Daddy walks hand in hand with his princess. She’s maybe 2, dripping wet and giggling with excitement at her swimming adventure. Mama follows behind, moving slower, carrying a bowling ball in her belly. They dry off and position themselves on their beach towels to enjoy a snack. There’s a whole posse of 50-something couples at 2:00, lounging behind them, cold beers in their cupholders, waxing eloquent on baseball, stock portfolios and the best restaurants in Chicago. One of those loud mouthed dudes notices the quiet family eating their fruit snacks and feels compelled to advise little princess’ daddy on how to raise daughters.

He seems to think he’s both incredibly smart and extremely witty. His conversation starter is classic.
“Just wait until she’s a teenager.”
That’s encouraging!
“Here’s what you need to do. Show her date your gun cabinet and tell him you’re not afraid to use them.”He went on an on ad nauseum about guns and boyfriends and a comprehensive strategy for establishing a solid power differential with any guy his daughter likes, seemingly convinced that made him a successful father.

I chewed my gum vigorously to keep my mouth busy so that I wouldn’t turn around and interrupt Mr. Know-It-All’s monologue and tell that naive young dad, “Don’t be that kind of jerk!”

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve made our own laundry list of parenting “oopsies”, but thankfully, not this one.

I get it. Teenage guys who are crushing on our daughters scare the bejeebies out of us. Truth. We know how gullible our girls can be and we don’t want them to get hurt. For dads like the beach dude, powering up at the gun cabinet might give them an illusion of control but ultimately that strategy backfires. So, my thought is, pick your battles shrewdly when your daughter’s heart, safety and sexual integrity are at stake. Think of it like a game of rock, paper, scissors. Your gun is not going to beat your kid’s affection. And it isn’t going to give you any opportunity for relational influence in her boo’s life either.fullsizeoutput_90d3

Maybe there’s a better way….
If a guy is important to our daughter, shouldn’t he matter to us too?
What if we embraced our opportunity to impact our daughter’s BF’s life for good through our words and by our example?
What if we help him cast a vision for becoming a young man of honor and responsibility and integrity?
Our role might be super small and incredibly time limited or we could be laying a foundation for a long term relationship with the man our kid covenants to share her life with. Whichever it is, I’d hate to squander my opportunity to invest well in his story.

Here’s are some universal truths about human nature:
-We generally aspire toward other’s expectations of us. If you treat somebody like he’s a thug, why should he act any differently? Affirming a person’s strengths and assuring him of your confidence is motivational.

– Respect is a widespread core need. If that’s how you want to be treated, why wouldn’t he? Which would you respond better to, a passive aggressive lecture including a tour of a father’s gun cabinet; or, a conversation with a girl’s dad where he expresses genuine interest in you as a person, where he asks reflective questions about why you like his daughter and what your plan is for treating her with care and respect when you’re together?

-Fear tactics and micromanaging behaviors don’t conform the motivation of a person’s heart. In your daughter’s dating relationship, you can’t set up a rule playbook that doesn’t have loopholes, or chaperone your kid and her boyfriend 100% of the time, even if you’re the Duggars. Another way to support sexual boundaries between your daughter and her boyfriend might be to encourage them to hang out with you, eat dinner around your table, watch movies in your family room, talk until curfew on your porch swing, and that ain’t going to happen if you’re intimidating, threatening or playing the bully.

Everybody has their own style of relating, customized for their family. Here’s a snapshot of how these convictions have played out in ours. My husband was gone on an extended business trip and our girl wanted to go somewhere with a guy she liked.
“He’ll have to talk to me first before driving you anywhere.” I told her.
“You’ve got to have “the talk” with my mom before I can go,”I heard her tell him on the phone.
We met in the park where I dropped her off that afternoon. He sat across from me at a picnic table and our conversation went something like this:
“Generally, I only let my kids ride with other teenagers that I know and trust. I don’t know you very well yet, but my daughter tells me you’re responsible, cautious and loyal. I’ve decided that based on my daughter’s character reference and your driving record I will let her ride with you as long as we’re on the same page about rules for safe driving. Here’s what I’m expecting of you:
I expect you to obey traffic laws, including the speed limit.
I expect you to focus on driving without the distraction of your phone.
I expect you to drive sober.
Are we agreed on those expectations?”
“Yes, I’ll do my best to drive safely with her,”he responded sincerely.
“Great. I believe that you will. Take care of my precious cargo and have a great time!”

And he has—both driven safely and had a great time. Since then, he’s become a “regular” around our house, one of the pack. Our relationship has been built on mutual respect and we’ve dialogued about all sorts of interesting, controversial and deep topics. My gut tells me that if we’d employed scare tactics at the starting gate, the relational dynamic would look really different and we’d all have missed out on something valuable.

So, back to the guy on the beach. I sat quiet like I was minding my own business. But inside, I admit it, I was giving that dad a piece of my mind.
“Grow up, dude.”
“Oh, and I’ll pass on your semi-intoxicated parenting advice, too, but thanks anyway.”

Disclaimer: Disregard everything I just said if your daughter’s guy is a creeper, a stalker, a predator, someone who’s physically, sexually or emotionally harming her, or someone who doesn’t demonstrate any foreseeable potential, because that’s different and requires a more assertively protective response.