Monthly Archives: February 2016

Phoebe’s Boys


Tonight, these boys sit around my table. They laugh, chew with their mouths open despite reminders, forget to use their napkins. They are louder than they ought to be and chanting and banging on the table is also not uncommon. I roll my eyes at their antics. I refrain from fussing, inwardly step back, adjust the lens.

The thirteen year old; he will have his father’s nose. In five years he can legally marry, but sometimes still he holds onto me in the kitchen and cries. He dreams of flying airplanes and foreign countries, and maybe he’ll write a book he says. He looks out for me, this one.

The eleven year old, overcoming his Dyslexia and surprising himself with a newfound addiction to a chapter book series as of late. He tells me about the dragon tribes and his eyes are ablaze with the love of a good story. My hearts swells and I exhale, satisfied. He is stubborn like his mother, but his heart is tender and always on his sleeve.

The eight year old smiles tonight and laughs at the one year old who is putting on a show for everyone. I can almost see the healing as the laughter bubbles out. A second chance to love and be loved by a younger sibling. The hurt recedes for a moment and he is just a normal boy without a wound.

Not a meal goes by at this table that I do not think of her. I know she would help me manage this crew of wild ones, contribute her joy, giggle at the sillies, say “eeew, that’s gross.” at all the right moments…


Oh Phoebes…

Phoebe’s boys are a lot of work, and sometimes a boy-mom just needs a quiet space away from all the action. But tonight, these boys are at my table, and in the days that stretch out but fly by, they will change shape. They will shed the round edges of boyhood, become disenchanted with their Legos and light sabers.  They will leave my table, just as Phoebe has, and these flash-frame moments will be the hidden treasures of my heart.





The Half-Way Place…

The Half-Way Place…

A few months ago I was at a popular “younger people” clothing store in the mall purchasing a couple of shirts. The eighteen-ish year old kid behind the counter was making small talk with me when his eyes lit up with recognition. “Hey, did you use to teach second grade at such-and-such elementary?” he blurted out excitedly. “Me?” I looked around to be sure he was in fact talking to me. He was.

I laughed out loud, realizing that he obviously wasn’t a very good judge of age if he thought I could have possibly been HIS second grade teacher. And then I did the math.

Good gracious. Geez. For real?

I was, indeed old enough to have been this kid’s second grade teacher. Just barely, but the problem is, HE thought I was obviously old enough. Growing up is weird. One day you realize that other people actually see you as an adult. It’s a scary thing, because I suppose none of us ever feel all grown up on the inside.

And I’m turning forty this year, did I mention that? It’s really thrown me, and I’m surprised because I’ve never thought much about age at all. For the first time maybe ever, I am aware that there’s an actual timeline. Dreams and goals that have always floated around somewhere out there in the nebulous “someday”, suddenly feel urgent. I know too well that life can change on a dime, and that there’s no time like the present to act on those things that God has hard-wired into us.

My grandfather Zig Ziglar, was the most dedicated and methodical goal-setter I have ever known. He had an amazing way of taking a huge dream and breaking it down into small, doable mini-goals that seemed completely plausible. He made it look so easy. Now, more than ever, do I have an appreciation for his instruction in this area. I can still hear his voice asking “When are you gonna write your book Sunshine? Are you journaling all of your adventures?” I always assured him that I would and that I was. What I wouldn’t give to talk to him about all this turning forty stuff and timelines and goals.

This week I came across a wonderful book called God is Always Hiring-50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work, by Regina Brett. The title caught my eye in the book store and I spent the next hour camped out on the carpet reading. Instead of chapters, the book is divided into lessons, with each lesson taking three to four pages. The lessons were reminiscent of my grandfather’s philosophy and endeared me to the book instantly. I am only to lesson eighteen, but I am devouring the insight Regina shares and it is speaking so pointedly to where I find myself at this half-way place in life.

I don’t know the author, and this is the first work of hers that I have read, so although I sound like I’m pitching and promoting, I’m really just excited about what I’m reading. Maybe you find yourself at a half-way place in life, or feeling like God is doing something new in your heart; changing your direction or steering you towards a specific goal. Look at some of these “lessons”….

1. When you don’t get what you want, you get something better – experience.

2. Everything changes when you change.

3. Burying your talents won’t make them grow.

4. What they call you is up to them. What you answer to is up to you.

5. In the drama of life, there are no small parts.

6. Give others a second chance to make a first impression.

7. Every job is as magical as you make it.

8. There’s time for everything, but not always at the same time.

9. Only you can determine your worth.

10. Even the mistakes belong

11. If you’re going to doubt anything, doubt your doubts.

12. Sometimes the job you want is the job you already have.

13. Most of the time, the only person in your way is you.

14. God is still speaking.

Good stuff. And that’s just fourteen of the lessons. I’m looking forward to reading on, and I expect the pages to be highlighted and dog-eared to death by the time I’m done.

Each new season of life is unexplored territory. Other travelers can describe the scenery, warn you about the potential pit-falls and roadblocks and attempt to forecast the weather. But you really just don’t know until you get there, set your bags down, the ones full of your life experience, hopes and heartaches, and survey the landscape for yourself. You look through different eyes, that have seen different things. You bear God’s unique imprint and you bring that into each new season.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

I’ve always loved that quote. It challenges me to face my fears head-on and to conquer that in myself which feels inadequate. This half-way place for me is an awakening. What dormant dream has God deposited in your heart that needs to be dusted off and brought out in to this new season?




Some mornings you sit down with your coffee and your computer, and you plan to blog. But you decide to go and pick a featured image from your pictures first, thinking it will help inspire your writing. And then you spend the next half hour scrolling through pictures of the unthinkable journey, reliving, re-feeling, re-loving and looking closely at yourself with her to see if you might have realized at the time, the moment you were in. Were you aware how very precious this moment was?  Did you give yourself entirely to it?

IMG_2731 photoshoped

I wish I could say I was fully present in each of those moments. And I know I gave myself completely to some of them. But I was tired, worn thin from midnight trips to the ER, balancing Phoebe’s physical and medical needs with the boys’ needs, and trying to hold it together emotionally. So much just ‘surviving’ in all of that. The beautiful thing, is that Phoebe was doing so much more than just surviving her cancer. A pure and perfect, deep rooted joy emerged from my daughter.

She said thank you to the phlebotomists after a blood draw, she smiled at people at the grocery store and showed them her bracelet or her Band-Aids, she hugged perfect strangers and told them how her Daddy snores, she encouraged the other cancer kids in the play room. She was on a love mission, that girl. Phoebe was always looking for someone to love or encourage or welcome into her world. It was supernatural, this sweet anointing.  It looked like Jesus. It still humbles me and instructs me to think of her love.

Phoebe gave herself fully to each moment. The person in front of her was the most important person in the world. Why is this so difficult, this singular focus? I want to zero in on and love people in this way, be demonstrative in my affection, seek people out to encourage. Grief is a force to contend with, and I know there is purpose in the pain, but it sometimes blinds me to the needs of others right in front of me. I want to push back the heavy curtain, blow the dust off my ability to really SEE, and then give myself entirely to each moment.







I still haven’t found that chap-stick. The one that Phoebe ran off with just a few weeks before her passing. Knowing Phoebe, she probably tucked it inside a little coin purse she had, or in with her nail-polish stash. All of those things still sit on the shelves in her closet. I visit them from time to time, holding her little shoes and thumbing the wear-patterns on the soles of them or looking through her pink backpack that held all of her everyday treasures: My Little Pony Band-Aids, a flip-open mirror, the last few Beads of Courage she earned at the clinic.




A couple of days after the 2 year anniversary of her death, I painted her room. The other bereaved parents said I would know when I was ready, and they were right. I had dreaded it; just the thought of it made my stomach churn for 2 years. And then one day, I needed to do it. It became urgent almost, and I made plans to move two of the boys into her room. We listed her bedroom set on Craigslist and discussed what our response would be if someone were to ask why we were getting rid of it. “Our daughter doesn’t need it anymore.” was decided on, and it was true. A few days later when the buyers came to load it on to their trailer, I watched from the kitchen window but didn’t cry. “Just props.” I said under my breath, recalling a sermon I heard years ago about God’s intention for our material possessions. Just props that enable us to serve Him better. The thought that Phoebe had “outgrown” her furniture comforted me somehow.

She goes on, but moth and rust will eventually destroy her props. They will not last. She is the treasure stored in heaven, the furniture can go. It is not her.

These were the thoughts that enabled me to let go. Eternal perspective is fundamental in these moments. It informs every thought I have about my history with Phoebe, and my future with her. I can not imagine the extent of my undoing without a biblical framework for this pain, without an understanding of the nature and character of God.

Shortly after that trailer drove away, I set to work painting. Making space for the boys to spread out a bit, giving Thatcher a room without pink curtains and yellow walls. The brush strokes do not erase her, they simply create room for life as it is here, now. She is safe, and whole, and held, and she goes on…and that is my hope for my life.