Spiderman, butterflies and you

It was a perfect day for a spider man party. We all met at a park with a newly reopened playground. The sun was bright, the sky blue. The nearest pavilion was packed full of people so the birthday boy’s mom and dad set up a nice spread in the shade of a tree. Another pavilion was open across the way, but it would have been a hike for all the little ones to go back and forth to the playground.

We tossed around the idea of setting up the whole party under the tree – in the shade and close to the playground.

“I don’t know,” his mom said, worried. “Jude really wanted a party. I’m afraid it won’t feel like a party to him if we can’t decorate the table.”

“Well, let’s ask him,” his dad said.

They called over their little man. “Jude, would you like to stay here close to the playground or go over there to the tables and decorate one of them?”

Jude pointed. Definitely the tables. Definitely the decorations.

His mom smiled, “I knew it! I know my Jude…”

Her words stayed with me. I know my Jude… 

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Such a sweet parent. Jude had been wishing and dreaming of his birthday party for weeks. His mom and dad knew just what he longed for and delighted in giving it to him.

I felt like God whispered to my heart – That’s how I think.

I forget that sometimes. That God loves giving good gifts. And not just random good gifts but gifts that matter to our heart. In this season, it’s hard to see the good. It’s easy to miss the sweet gifts as our minds focus on all that’s wrong in the world. All that hurts. All that doesn’t work right now.

But then.

On Sunday I walked into the backyard to see a yellow butterfly. Yellow butterflies always remind me of my dad. It seems like every time I think of him, I see one. On this Father’s Day the butterfly seemed to linger, dancing through the air as it passed. It’s been over ten years since my dad’s been gone and I miss him.  It brought tears to my eyes.

It was a little thing, but almost immediately I heard that still, small voice in my thoughts. I know my Elsa…

A little gift. A God kiss. Just because he sees and he knows.

I want to do a better job of seeing. Not missing those gifts. 

I want that for you, too. The next good thing that comes your way – the song that touches your heart. The sunset. The flowers blooming in an unexpected spot. The words of a friend. The kindness of a stranger. The good movie, the great read, the perfect piece of chocolate after your workout. Whatever good gift, think of the giver.

He’s happy to give it.

As he thinks of you. Knows you. Loves you.

I know my child…

 

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But then…

I stood beside my mom as the young couple talked to me. They greeted her and then barely glanced her direction for the rest of the conversation. 

She’s 84, she’s my mom, and as an elderly woman, she was dismissed. 

But then our neighbor down the street came by our house. He is a police officer. It was at just the start of the coronavirus and he knocked on our door. “I noticed your mom lives with you. If you need any help, here’s my card. Text me. I can get groceries for you, keep you informed on what’s going on. Whatever you need. I’m here.”

He saw her and he served her.

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The children didn’t see me watching out the window. We had some friends over and their young son played with our kids out on the trampoline. The boy pushed Lovence hard onto the trampoline. Lovence is special needs and non-verbal – older, but without his own voice. This child knew and took advantage of the moment. 

It’s scary. Without a voice, he became an easy target.

But then the teachers at Lovence’s school came by for his birthday. The parade included a firetruck, an ambulance and a slew of cars decorated for his special day. They honked and yelled and cheered for my sweet boy.

They saw him and they celebrated him.

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I was an overweight teen. A heavy teenage girl who thought tube socks were a fabulous accessory to a plaid skirt. I also bore the most embarrassing last name (Kok). The kids had a field day with my awkwardness, and I withdrew into myself.

 I didn’t fit and I knew it… and so did everyone else.

But then there was the valedictorian of our high school class – years later he actually lost his life in the 9/11 attacks. But he was kind to me. He didn’t seem to notice my oddities. He saw me as a human being. He talked with me. He joked with me.

I was seen and it stays with me today.

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My Haitian girl was mocked for the color of her skin – dark and glowing and beautiful – but different to those in her circle. She took in those words and for weeks hated the color of her own skin, wishing she could change it. 

It’s heartbreaking, such beauty dismissed and demeaned.

But then there was the Kenyan runner in our community – a future olympian who won a 10 mile race with incredible speed and athleticism. My husband approached her and introduced her to our daughter. Her dark skin mirrored our girl and her strong spirit matched her own. In the midst of a busy running career, she took time and loved on our girl.

She saw her and our daughter reveled in it.

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I don’t want to cry victim, for even the wrongs brought change. As a result of her heartache, my mom started calling others who might feel invisible – reaching out to the lonely. Lovence is brave, standing in the face of the pain. I grew in my love and compassion for those  who feel like misfits. And my Haitian girl has grown a strong sense of pride in her heritage and in justice for the offended.

But I wish it were different.

It’s not.

So for me I want to be part of the BUT THEN movement. Pain comes, but then a tender soul brings healing with their kindness. Riots destroy, but then a community comes together to clean it up and help each other rebuild. Racism demeans but then a nation chooses to live and love and see in new and honoring ways. 

And my BUT THEN is to see the people around me. See their uniqueness, see their value. See their beauty. See their strength. See their gifts. Just look them in the eyes and see them, period. 

I can’t fix the whole world, but then I can see the people God sets in my path today – be in the moment, look them in their eyes and love them well.

What is your but then in the face of your injustice?

Let’s start a movement.

#ButThen

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So the firetrucks came by our house today…

 

For our boy!

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Forty words from Four Kids

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Homeschooling week 1 – a little video to make you chuckle

Something that made us laugh this morning. This is our world. Join us!

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Fur Ball Love

His eyes follow me wherever I go.

If I head up the stairs, he is right there beside me. He lays down at my feet as I fold laundry. He jumps onto the bed as I do bedtime with the littles. He is always aware of where I am and what I’m doing.

He checks on each little when he wakes. Sniffing, wagging, checking in to make sure they are well. He sits on their feet. They are mine, he says.

He barks at loud noises and stands ready to devour anyone who might threaten his people.

He is fluffy and handsome, and he loves his belly scratched.

And although my hubby is quite the stud muffin and for sure loves a good belly scratch –  I’m talking about my dog.

My dog is part shepherd. 

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And as I watch him watch me, his breed really strikes me. A shepherd. Aware at all times, ready to protect, always near, always devoted, always on alert. Loving, protective, close.

Yesterday I was doing homeschooling with the kids – Laurentz read about a shepherd – a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. A shepherd who lovingly says, “They are mine.” A shepherd who is compassionate, protective, close.

His eyes are on you. His eyes are on me. He doesn’t miss a beat.

He is our shepherd and we are his.

So friends, if you have any type of critter that loves you through thick and thin, protects you, sits on your feet and snuggles you close – may that warm fur ball remind you of a love that will see us through every moment of the coming days, weeks and months. 

We are not alone.

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But I Don’t Wanna!

I don’t like it.

I don’t like it one little bit. It feels vulnerable and scary and overwhelming.

But I have to do it. I can’t do this on my own and I have to ask for your help. I need your quarters. Pennies. Crumpled dollar bills. Shiny nickels. Whatever you have, really. I’ll take it all.

It’s for a teen suicide prevention event God has set on my heart. This event keeps me up through the night – I can’t get these kids off of my mind! So much so that I will do what I hate doing – ask for money. Our local church is hosting the event on April 5th, but it’s our gig so I am gathering the funding. We hope to have 500 teens, maybe more. We need help paying our speakers (not me, this one’s pro bono for me – don’t want you to think I’m padding my own little coffers!). We want to get tote bags for the teens – full of resources (got a ton of quality content coming). We want to do an Instagram marketing campaign to get their attention. We want to spoil them with giveaways that will give them a chance to connect with one another – restaurants, bowling, laser tag – fun stuff that will open the door to face-to-face relationships.

It’s not a tax-deductible donation because I don’t have a non-profit for this… yet. But the donation is love-deductible.

Okay, yeah. So that was lame – but kinda cute?

I’m grateful for any help you can offer. Here is the GoFundMe link with some other details: www.gofundme.com/lightupthedarkcos.

There. I did it.

 

 

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Don’t say goodbye. A post for the heartbroken.

I saw you today.

Your head was bowed, your shoulders slumped, your eyes to the ground. Your backpack looked like it weighted a thousand pounds.

You crossed in front of my car at a stoplight – your shuffling steps made me wonder.

Is your heart broken?

Who hurt you?

Why are you so sad?

The light turned green and I drove away. But I haven’t forgotten you. I wonder if you are still sad. I wonder what has gone through your head. I wonder, have you thought of ending it all?

Suicide.

It’s entered my world recently in different ways. An old friend, a distant family member, a local high school student. a loved one who considered it just recently.

Oh God, please don’t.

Please don’t go. Please don’t say goodbye.

I watched a show that’s been popular among teens – just to try to understand. Thirteen Reasons Why. In it a high school girl takes her own life and then leaves behind cassette tapes implicating her friends for her death. I might have loved that show as a teen. I may have thought there was something poetic about it. After all, she gets back at all those who have hurt her by laying the guilt at their doorstep. Not only is she free from pain, she has exacted revenge on those responsible.

But she’s still gone.

Gone.

Never to experience her real first love, the joy of climbing a mountain, the exhilaration in conquering a fear and beating her depression. Never to hold a child, a grandchild, a great grandchild. Never to swim in the ocean, taste homemade ice cream, laugh till her belly hurts… ever again.

There is nothing poetic about suicide. It robs life. It’s based on lies. It takes light and hope from the world and from far too many lives.

But the feelings are real, aren’t they? The depression so deep it can feel impossible to ever surface from it. The lies run rampant, choking hope from the best fighters, the most valiant ones. And they let go, thinking that’s the best and only option.

But it’s just not true.

Let’s look at it.

Lie number one: They will be better off without me.

No. They won’t. They would much rather have a broken you, then no you at all. Your kids, your family, your friends. You are not a burden, a mistake, a weight. You are hurting, yes. Maybe you’ve been hurting for a long time – but they still need you. They need your presence. Your touch. Your light. They need to see you fight so they will fight. They need you to do whatever it takes to find help, fight for hope, believe in a future. The best scenario is you paving the way to healing so they can do the same.

But she left me. 

But he left me. 

Yes, maybe the important someones have walked out of your life. That does not mean everyone will. Maybe the people who were supposed to stand with you and believe in you failed in every way. That does not mean you shouldn’t stand, walk and believe for yourself. You were created. You have a purpose The greatest tragedy would be if you ended your life before you got to see the good you have to give – the good you were designed for, the good you’ll receive in return. No one is ever better off without you. They are only better off with you fighting, never giving up, believing there is hope. Please, please don’t give up.

Be that one. Be the one who fights. Don’t give up. Don’t say goodbye.

Lie number two: As in Thirteen Reasons, I will make them suffer for not being kind to me.

Ill show them. They’ll be sorry they didn’t _______________fill in the blank (love me, see me, accept me). Or They’ll be sorry they ________________ fill in the blank (were cruel, didn’t accept me, bullied me).

They may. They may be sorry, and they may not. You will never know. There’s no poetic justice in taking your own life to get back at those who have let you down. If they have let you down in life, they will let you down in death. Their expected reactions will be different than you hope for, their responses not poetic at all. Just real. Broken. Human. Unique to who they are. Some tender, some uncaring, some sorrowful, some not. But you will never know. 

It’s a lie. A big fat lie that taking your life is somehow the perfect revenge. The perfect revenge is actually living your life, fighting for hope, becoming that person who leaves depression in the dust to find purpose, strength, love and beauty. And that is both possible and doable. There are scores who have done it – who were once suicidal and now full of life. Who once knew heartache, and now stand strong. It is possible, and it is possible for you.

Lie number three: I just can’t do it anymore.

Getting up. Taking another breath. Facing another bill, another angry word, another broken relationship, another painful memory. It’s just too hard and you want to give up.

My mother lost hope. When I was young, she lost hope as PTSD took over her world. She had been imprisoned in a concentration camp as a child. She experienced torture, abuse, starvation. When the memories, nightmares, flashbacks started invading her every sleeping and waking moment, she wanted to end it all. She wanted to quit. Be done. It was all too much.

She didn’t do it. But the ache didn’t just go away. She sought counseling, sought God, worked to forgive. She had dark days and darker nights. She let people in when she wanted to shut them out. She believed God would help her when nothing seemed to point to that truth. And ultimately, through time, love, prayer, hope, she was healed.

And generations are different as a result.

We have no idea how much suicide will ripple through and impact lives around us. Even more so, how much staying, fighting, living, healing – will influence generations with hope and life. Yes, it’s the hardest thing you will ever do. But it’s so worth it. If my mom had chosen suicide, how different my world would have been. Ask every broken heart who has lost a loved one to suicide. What they would give to have that life back – that smile, even in pain. Those eyes, even with tears. That voice, even in heartache. Choosing death ends hope. In choosing life, in fighting the good fight, you can radically change generations for the good.

Lie number four: There’s no way out.

There’s no way I can beat this addiction, this pain, this loneliness, this feeling. It’s just too much. I’ve tried everything and nothing works.

Jesus.

No, not religion.

Jesus.

Don’t tune me out. It’s not a pat answer. It’s not a religious fix that simply sounds good. It is a HE who loves YOU.

Think of the kindest person you’ve ever met. Do it. Think of him. Think of her. The eyes, the smile, the tenderness. Multiply that by a million and you have Jesus.

Think of the strongest person you’ve ever known or heard about. Got him? See her in your mind? The tenacity, the endurance, the passion and courage. The fight-for-it kind of attitude. That’s Jesus, times a million. Only he focuses all that strength into fighting for you. YOU. He’ll do it. He wants to. It’s who he is.

Yeah, but a lot of Christians are jerks, we think. They’re part of the problem! I get it. Some of us are not very smart. We get it wrong. Holding up signs of everything we’re against and forgetting that God is FOR people. He loves. He saves. He corrects in loving truth. He fights. He will never abandon… HE WILL HEAL.

Jesus literally went through it all – rejection, loss, grief, pain. He lost it all. People who loved him left him. People who hated him wanted him dead. Not just dead. Dead by the cruelest of means. He never did anything wrong and yet he lost it all. He gets pain more than any other human. The tears he cried before his death were so intense, blood mingled with them. He gave his life – not for the perfect human who gets it right. For you. For me. To give us a way to hope. He took it all on his shoulders so we wouldn’t have to. And he fixes things. He doesn’t fix things by looking at you and saying “Buck up – pull it together!” He doesn’t shame you. He takes it. He does it. The only thing we have to do is be with him. Sit with him. What does that look like? Be still. Ask him to help you have faith. Choose to believe. Let him love you. Ask him to show you his love. Then look and see. Take that sunset personally, that song, the flower to heart. That’s his voice, his light in the darkness. He will change you. He will bring hope. He will take the depression and replace it with life. Not overnight – because he is doing something in the healing. He will use people, strong, safe people who will walk with you. They are out there. Ask him to help you find them and then seek them out. He will use resources – books, groups, studies, to educate you on addiction, abuse, depression. He can use medication to help mediate chemical issues in your brain. He can and will help because He loves you. I know this because I’ve seen it. Over and over again. in my own life. in other lives. He is real and He changes it all.

Maybe you don’t know what to pray, how to pray, what step to take next. I don’t know if I can, but I so want to help. Will you share your story with me? Trust me with your pain? I can’t fix it. I can’t offer advice, but I can help you pray. Tell me what you’ve been going through and I will do my very best to pen a prayer for you to pray. Would you let me do that for you? I don’t want you to leave this world. I don’t want you to say goodbye. I don’t want you to go.

Chester Bennington, from Linkin Park, sang a song called “One More Light” in honor of a friend he lost.

Not too long after that, Chester took his own life. What a heartbreak!

The lyrics still haunt me.

If they say

who cares if one more light goes out?

In a sky of a million stars

It flicker, flickers

Who cares when someone’s time runs out?

If a moment is all we are

We’re quicker, quicker

Who cares if one more light goes out?

Well I do….

 

Well friends, I do.

I care if your light goes out.

Your life matters. 

Please don’t say goodbye.

And so if this blog post didn’t convince you, will you write to me and let me send a prayer back? Then please just promise me you’ll pray that prayer every day. It’s not magic, not at all. It’s just words. But I’m hoping they will be words that will connect you to the one who made you and loves you beyond all words.

If I can do this one small thing for you, I’d be so honored. Please send a note to prayerforhope@outlook.com.

 

This blog is dedicated to the families of Aaron, Lisa, Richard, Alex… I think of you so often. And this is for those who are still fighting. You know who you are….

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Like breathing and eating and peeing.

Exciting news!!

GodhasDimples will go away soon. I now have a permanent blogging home. If you have enjoyed my writing over the years, will you please join me there? The blog post title you just read… you’ll find it there.

Click here to stay with me and check out that post – or to paste in your URL, it’s http://www.godkisses.com. I’d love your company!

 

 

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I watched you today.

 

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I watched you.

Sometimes with my heart in my throat, sometimes with tears in my eyes.

I wanted you to connect, to feel welcome, to make a friend. I wanted people to be nice to you and you to be nice to them. I watched. I watched you as you giggled nervously and then as your smile broadened the safer you felt. I watched as you high fived one of the girls, laughed out loud, inhaled a piece of pizza.

And I nearly started balling.

Right there at a bowling alley with hundreds of 5th and 6th graders.

I didn’t. And you can thank me later for the way I covered the tears in my eyes with a hearty sneeze and shrug.

Darn allergies.

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I delighted in you. In the moment. In the fact that you are our daughter and I get to be here, right now, with you.

I had the same feeling today when you performed in your first baton march. They called your name and pronounced our last name wrong, like they usually do. Our last name. OUR last name.

And you smiled brave and strong, lifted your knees high, gracefully navigating your 8 step routine.

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Tears came to my eyes again.

I wanted you to succeed, feel joy, be proud of yourself. I wanted it for you and with you.

And in these things, in all these things, you didn’t know. You were completely unaware of the intensity of my emotion.

Then my breath caught – if this is how I feel in all my incredibly frail brokenness – how much more does our God feel that way about me, about us? When we risk, when we connect, when we make a friend, be a friend. When we stretch ourselves, test ourselves, live big and brilliant.

I think we are completely unaware of how much he is in every moment – how deeply he feels, how much it matters to him, how he is for us and with us, all the time.

Oh my word. Sniff. Sniff.

Darn allergies.

 

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