On Life vs. Life-As-You-Expected

Every so often I write a note to parents who have just received the diagnosis that changes everything.

Down Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Blindness, forever

How can I explain the infinitude of this moment? Everything before those words is one way.  Everything after them is another.

Infinite things happen in that infinite moment. Numbness and rage sit side by side, no regard for the conventional reason which says they can not coexist. You have infinite thoughts in that moment. Infinite fears.

She will never run. She will never play hide-and-seek. She will never color. She will never dance. She will never marvel at the stars.

Dear parent reeling from having experienced infinity in a moment,

I am so sorry. The death of everything you thought you knew, the death of everything you didn’t know you were hoping for – those are deaths. They aren’t to be brushed aside with “It could have been worse,” or “She’ll do great things anyway!” Life-as-you-were-expecting-it has died. Your grief is so real.

But life is so much richer than life-as-you-were-expecting-it.

This is the horrible, beautiful truth. I hate it, and I am grateful for it way down deep in my bones.

This morning, my daughter performed in a school play. She memorized the choreography, her classmates helped her on stage, and she danced her little heart out. I cried, of course, because of this truth: my life is better than life-as-I-expected-it.

It’s harder in every single way - but it’s better, too.

Parent, now that your life is moving in a new and unexpected direction, you will meet the strongest people on the planet: those with special needs and the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, teachers, doctors, and specialists that love them. There is no more passionate, more determined, fiercer, more inspiring group on the planet. You’re in the club now. In the trenches. You will bear witness to miracles.

You will also become a better version of yourself.  You will be more aware, more compassionate, more of an advocate, more hopeful, more organized, and more relentless. You will be you, 2.0.

You will have opportunities that you couldn’t have dreamed up in one million years. They will come in the form of conversations and friendships, and they will fill you to the brim with gratitude.

It will be different, but it will not be bad.

It will be hard, but it will be good.  It will be so, so, so, so good. 

Darling, do not fear what you don't really know. 

Madeline is in the front row, second from the left. You know, the one straining her neck and voice and lungs. This surprises nobody. She is clearly FEELING IT. 

Madeline is in the front row, second from the left. You know, the one straining her neck and voice and lungs. This surprises nobody. She is clearly FEELING IT. 

The Best Worst Day Ever

I wish I could talk about the good without talking about the hard, but I can’t. 

As such, I’ve erred on the side of not talking about much of ANYTHING, because I’m sensitive to not making this story about me or about difficulties or about anything other than the grace of God in my life. 

But - I also have miraculous stories to tell. And heck if I’m not going to tell them just because there’s a little bit of hard and awkward mixed in there.

So. Here’s tonight’s miracle. 

Today, Monday brought its A-game. My van broke down on the side of the road. In the rain. In rush-hour traffic. With my 3 kids inside. The van is unsalvageable. 

A dear friend came to rescue us wearing a fuzzy lavender bathrobe with pink polka dots, Aztec-printed leggings, and what I can only assume were her son’s soccer cleats that she grabbed as she ran out the door. 

I arrived late to work in my dad’s borrowed truck: a 1995 fire engine-red Chevy Suburban with an NRA sticker on the back. Just whatever. 

After work I hurried home, got the kids in bed, and started researching cars.  This is tricky, as my budget is zero dollars

As I was scrolling through Carmax pages, my best-cousin-friend Brooke texted me.  Brooke is my person, so when she asks, “How was your day?” I tell her the actual truth.  Today I said, “IT HAS BEEN A DAY.”

She immediately texted back: “Would this help? https://www.gofundme.com/a298scfg

I followed the link to find this:

Unbeknownst to me, my tribe raised $3,500 in a single day, to love me. 

That was around 8:30 p.m.  I've been crying ever since. 

I will spare you the details about how this has so clearly been orchestrated right down to the exact date and time and dollar amount, but here’s what I absolutely must say. 

I believe in God because his people love me so well.

In this season, God has sustained, loved, and tenderly cared for my children and me – and He’s done it through His people.  My family, friends, small group, church, and this weird 2015 thing that is an “internet tribe.” 

The people of God aren’t idle well-wishers or foolish hope-ers.

The people of God are tenacious pray-ers, extravagant givers, and the hardest workers. They make stuff happen. They take seriously their charge to love the world, care for widows and orphans, and marry their faith with deeds that smack of gospel love.

So I’m going to buy a car this week. I pray that over the next many years, every time I start it, I’ll be moved by the miraculous provision of God and the extraordinary generosity of His people. I’ll begin each trip, each day, with a face-down, palms-up posture of awe and humble gratitude.

We carry each other. 
Thank you, 


181 Words (A Brief Commentary on Listening to New Readers)

It took Madeline one hour to read one hundred and eighty one words. I did the math, and this means that she averaged three words per minute.

Here’s an exercise: set a timer for one minute. Read three words, then sit in silence for the remaining 59 seconds. When the buzzer goes off, imagine it had taken you the entire minute to read those three words. Seriously, go do this.

Now imagine sitting for AN HOUR listening to another person read at that pace.

If you are struggling to imagine what that feels like, allow me to illuminate. It feels like a train full of manic anxiety collided with a train full of mind-numbing boredom at 181mph, and you were standing at the point of impact.  It feels like you're burning to death in a catastrophic explosion, but you can’t die. You just keep burning - for an hour.

I’m not saying listening to a new reader is hell, I’m just saying it’s like eternal burning. Don’t put words in my mouth.  

Fun fact: this blog post is 181 words long. 

People Up Close

I have the best best-friends in the history of time and space.

The thing is, my best friends live 3, 6, 7, and 11 hours away. None of us reside in the same state. Which is a real drag when you want someone to come sip wine and watch The Walking Dead after the kids go to sleep.

In the last calendar year, every single one of my best friends has showed up for me. They’ve called. They’ve booked flights. They’ve loaded up vans full of furniture and redecorated my house. They’ve folded laundry, FacedTimed, and mailed Target gift cards. They’ve sent clothes, cookies, and gifts for my kids. They are remarkable humans, and proof that love and friendship are not constrained by miles.

But. When I moved to Raleigh, I knew that I was going to need people up close.

No matter how great my four forever-friends are, I knew I would always be lonely if I didn’t have someone in my living room every once in a while. I knew I needed someone with whom I could have Easter dinner. Go to the pool. Eat Mexican food. Call in the middle of the night when ‘ISH GOES DOWN. You know, the usual.

It is great fortune to have people. It is greater when you and your people share a zip code. We need people up close.

So in the middle of 2014, I decided to go find some people. Because here’s what I’ve learned:

Friendship isn’t something you have or find or wait for. It is something you build.

The best ways I know to build it are to say yes, show up, and tell the truth.

When someone invites you to dinner, say yes.
When someone needs a favor, show up.
When someone asks you how you’re doing, tell the truth.

This is actually hard work and requires a great deal of bravery. Vulnerability is implicit in the process. But if you keep doing these things for long enough, you will look up one day to find yourself surrounded by people you really like, and who like you right back.

When I moved to Raleigh, I said “Yes” to visiting a group of friends that met every Monday night. After I’d been there a handful of times, they asked me how I was doing. I told the truth. And no matter how tired, or busy, or weary I was, I kept showing up.

One year later, I have had Easter dinner with these people. We’ve gone to the pool together. We’ve eaten (a lot) of Mexican food. We’ve sipped wine after the kids went to bed. I’ve called them in the middle of the night when ‘ish went down.

They are my people up close, and they are one of the greatest blessings in my life.


Now. Do you have people up close? Because I think that if we were asked to describe ourselves - and we were painfully honest - the word “lonely” would appear higher and more often on that list than we’d like. I think that in 2015 we sit in the same rooms, at the same parks, in the same churches, and are lonely together.  

If this is you, I have great news. You can trick people into being friends with you! Just say yes to lunch/drinks/dinner/small group on Monday night. Even if it feels a little awkward. Then when one of them needs a friend, show up. Bring a meal. Drive-thru is fine. And if a potential friend asks you how you’re doing, fight your self-preservation urge to impress them and tell the damn truth. Just keep doing these things and people won’t even know what hit them! 

Thoughtfulness begets thoughtfulness.
Vulnerability begets vulnerability.
Kindness begets kindness.

Say yes. Show up for people. Tell the truth. Because we all need people up close.