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Recently a reader wrote to me who is struggling with shame over past choices. She wondered if I had any suggestions for how to “kick the feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness amd get closer to God.” That is such a great question, and I knew that my friend Shari would be the person to ask. She is a trained Biblical counselor and a person I often turn to for advice.

I emailed her with this question and she quickly replied. The information she shared was so good, that I want to offer it to all of you. Keep in mind that this was not a prepared and carefully formulated written response, but a quick message sent to me. Honestly, that’s one of the things I love about it. I’ve made a few small edits for clarity.

From Shari:

Right off, one of my favorite books dealing with shame is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  Brene Brown does not write from a Christian perspective, but oh my, does she describe where shame comes from, the effects, and new perspectives.  It’s very readable.  The only thing that I think is missing from this book is how we should actually deal with shame. The Christian answer is declaring what Christ did on the cross as a covering over our shame.  The author tells us to ‘look within’ for answers.  Still, I recommend the book because it is mind-blowing.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

We were standing in church, singing The First Noel, when I instinctively reached up and held the Ethiopian cross necklace resting against my chest. With no warning, my eyes filled with tears and my throat got tight.

I was wearing Kalkidan’s cross, the one that we bought for her in Addis, the one she wore sometimes when she dressed up. She wore it for the last time at the funeral home.

As Christmas approaches, we are continually bumping into reminders and memories.


giving thanks #1711 – 1720

watching Annarose dance with the UI Ballroom Dance Team last night

the large cabinet in my family room decluttered- oh, the joy of actually being able to see what is inside

letting go of things we no longer need; realizing it’s better to pass things along and let another child play with them

keeping the treasures for our future grandchildren (blocks, wood train, favorite puzzles, and probably too many more things)

group texts to ask the big kids which toys/puzzles to keep, and which to give away

big plans to catch up on Ishtar’s Odyssey: A Family Story for Advent today

snow tires on two of three cars

Christmas shopping almost done

Christmas letter written, pictures printed, Beza helping me get them ready to go

this moment – sitting near the Christmas tree we cut in our own little tree farm, the kids’ ornaments and colorful lights decorating it, coffee in my Christmas tree mug, the house still quiet, reading Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative

I am truly thankful that you read my words, that you walk through life with me, even if it’s only through our computer screens.


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Russ and I are hoping to make a trip to San Francisco. It’s strange that we can go away without fear of life at home being out of control, or even dangerous. His work requires him to travel, but when life was unstable and difficult, he wasn’t able to leave us.

As we talked about this trip, I realized that I’m not afraid to leave the kids at home. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m not afraid that the kids will be unmanageable for the person left in charge; we’re still dealing with challenges that wear us out, but life isn’t dangerous.

But I am still afraid.


This is the second post in a series written by a dear friend. She has a huge heart for unknown and forgotten children. Over the next weeks, she will be sharing their stories.

We were Michael’s 11th placement in the 11 months that he had been in foster care. Michael would start his 9th high school at our house for his sophomore year. 9 different high schools in one year. 11 different placements. You are probably thinking that Michael must be one nasty kid since he couldn’t stay in one placement, or perhaps he came into care because he was such a terrible kid that his own family couldn’t keep him.

Here is the truth. Michael came into care because he had horrible parents who beat the crap out of him his entire life and finally kicked him out of their home because he wouldn’t fight back. He was bounced from placement to placement because there aren’t enough homes for teens in the system and he had to be placed at shelters that can only keep kids under 18 for 72 hrs at a time.

Did Michael become a difficult placement after his year in care? You bet he did. Did he start out that way….absolutely not. He was a sweet kid with an abusive family.

Eby shorts

Ebenezer has always hated wearing long pants, even when the weather is below zero. It was fine when I homeschooled, but now that he is in school, showing up in shorts is a problem. Not only is it against school policy, since they are supposed to be appropriately dressed for the weather, but let’s be honest, I feel (a little) like a bad mom.

Many kids with Sensory challenges struggle with the way their clothes feel. These kids often can’t bear to wear socks, underwear, clothing with tags, and even shoes.

orange for k bday

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird 

I offended some people this weekend, family and friends whom I love. This caught me by surprise and I was reminded that we all see life, and read words, through our own lens and experience.

On Saturday I shared a blog post on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page written by Steve Locke, a professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He wrote of his experience beinging detained by the police because he matched the description of someone who had tried to break into a woman’s house.

I read, I Fit the Description, and for the first time, I experienced the internal process of a black man being questioned by the police. I read it as the white mother of black sons, and I thought about my boys.


This is the first post in a series written by a dear friend. She has a huge heart for unknown and forgotten children. Over the next weeks, she will be sharing their stories.

SO we have to get this out in the open right from the get go. I’m not young, hip, or culturally relevant. You may have guessed that by the fact that I used the phrase “from the get go.” Yep, I’m officially OLD.

I don’t hang out with young people who have been marginalized and vilified by our society because I’m so cool…or because I want some new edgy best friends. I don’t try to fit in. I don’t even have tattoos or piercings. Okay…I do have one tattoo but it is really small and no one even knows its there. I would probably get more (It’s true! Having one DOES make you want to get another!) but my kids think it’s creepy that  their OLD MOM has a tattoo!

I simply hang out with these kids because I care about them. If you knew them like I know them, I think you would care about them too.


Today is World AIDS Day. The internet is full of smart, informative posts about HIV and AIDS and I encourage you to read them, be educated, fight stigma, and support organizations working toward those goals.

Today my heart is missing Kalkidan, and this is what I want you to know about HIV.

In 2006, when we began the process of adopting Kalkidan, we knew very little about HIV. We worried about the safety of our other children – could they get it by living with her? Would she be sick all the time? Could she ever marry and have children? Would she die?


Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. The first candle lit each Advent season is the candle of hope. Our pastor introduced Advent teaching that in order to hope, we have to connect with our hopelessness. He spoke of God’s presence even in the times when He seems silent. I thought about that, not so much in terms of silence, but what about the times when tragedy strikes and he allows it? Is He silent then?

After church, while the turkey cooked, we bundled up and tromped through the pasture to our little tree farm. It was cold, and the kids couldn’t settle on just the right tree. It seemed that every few minutes, we heard Wogauyu’s voice call out, “I found it! I found the perfect tree!”